Royals rally past Cascades in clash of top-10 ranked teams

An untimely injury stalled some early momentum for the University of the Fraser Valley women’s volleyball team on Friday evening, as they dropped a four-set decision to the Douglas Royals at the Envision Financial Athletic Centre.

In a highly anticipated match-up featuring a pair of top-10 nationally ranked teams, the No. 7 Cascades were putting the finishing touches on an outstanding first set when outside hitter Amanda Matsui was helped off the court. She did not return, and her absence was no small matter – the 6’1” redshirt freshman came into the game ranked third in the PACWEST conference in total offence.

Lexi Edwards came off the bench in the fourth set to boost the Cascades.

UFV wrapped up a 25-18 win in the first, but the No. 3 Royals came roaring back to win the next three sets by scores of 25-21, 25-17 and 25-20.

The Cascades (5-2, third in PACWEST) and Royals (8-1, second) renew hostilities on Saturday at the EFAC (5 p.m. start).

“I think everyone in the league knows Amanda is one of our top guns and she’s going to get a lot of volume,” said UFV assistant coach David Dooley, who ran the Cascades bench of Friday with head coach Mike Gilray away in China coaching at an international beach volleyball tournament. “But injury is an unfortunate part of the game, and with that comes opportunity for other players. I thought some of our players really stepped up, and others kind of struggled with a little bit of pressure and should be hungry to step up tomorrow.”

Kim Bauder’s eight kills paced the Cascades’ offence, and she tied for team-high honours with setter Kara Williams with two blocks. Libero Cassidy King led the defensive effort with 21 digs.

The UFV squad also got a nice boost off the bench from rookie Lexi Edwards in the fourth set, which saw the Cascades trail by 8-1 and 13-3 margins. Edwards came in at left side and helped ignite a comeback that saw the hosts cut the deficit to 20-19 before Douglas pulled away. She finished with two key kills and a pair of digs.

“She was a middle all through high school, she’s been training at right side for us all year, and she’s played one night of left side (in practice) – last night,” Dooley said with a chuckle. “She was great in practice, and I thought hey, here’s her chance. She went out there, passed some great balls, and brought that reckless abandon that she said she was going to bring from the sidelines. You could see the energy totally start to shift. Unfortunately we couldn’t complete the comeback, but it helps us with momentum going into tomorrow, for sure.”

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