WEEKEND PREVIEW: Wrestlers host Cascades Classic, basketball and volleyball teams chase playoff berths on road

The University of the Fraser Valley wrestling program hosts its annual home tournament, the Cascades Classic, this weekend at the Envision Financial Athletic Centre.

The Canada West event runs Sunday, and it’s part of a busy weekend of wrestling action on campus. On Friday and Saturday, the Cascades host a major youth tourney, the Western Canada Age Class Championships. That event runs from 1 to 9 p.m. Friday, and from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday. Saturday evening brings dual meets between the Cascades and Saskatchewan Huskies (6 to 8:30 p.m.), and the action culminates Sunday with the Cascades Classic (9 a.m. start) featuring fellow Canada West programs Saskatchewan, the Regina Cougars, the Calgary Dinos, and the Alberta Golden Bears/Pandas.

Meanwhile, the Cascades basketball and volleyball teams are on the road for pivotal conference games. The UFV hoopsters are off to Prince George for a Friday/Saturday set with the UNBC Timberwolves, while the volleyball squads visit the Capilano Blues in North Vancouver on Thursday and Saturday evenings.

Making a difference with Bell Let’s Talk

The Cascades Classic doubles as the UFV athletic department’s annual Bell Let’s Talk event.

The Cascades and the rest of Canada West’s 17 members are holding game-day events this week to raise awareness for the Bell Let’s Talk initiative, which seeks to end the stigma around mental health issues. Bell Let’s Talk Day is Wednesday, Jan. 31, and Bell will donate five cents to Canadian mental health programs for a variety of social media interactions promoting mental health.

For more on Bell Let’s Talk, visit Bell.ca/LetsTalk

Click here to view the Canada West Bell Let’s Talk video

The UFV Counselling department is hosting Bell Let’s Talk events on Jan. 31 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on both the Abbotsford and Chilliwack campuses. Stop by to learn more about mental health, play a game, and win prizes.

WRES: Cascades relish the chance to play host

Brad Hildenbrandt (right) and the Cascades are hosting their annual home tournament this weekend.

Sunday, Jan. 28: Cascades Classic

Envision Financial Athletic Centre, 9 a.m. start

The numbers associated with this weekend’s wrestling events are eye-popping. Cascades head coach Raj Virdi is expecting in the neighbourhood of 500 high school wrestlers for the Western Canada Age Class Championships, and between 150 and 200 university athletes for the Cascades Classic on Sunday.

“It’s a great opportunity to host these events on campus,” Virdi said. “It’s great for recruiting purposes – you’ll see high school kids not just from B.C., but from other parts of Western Canada.

“Not every university team will be bringing their entire roster, since it’s the last tournament before the Canada West championships (Feb. 9-10 in Edmonton), but it’ll be a good turnout because Simon Fraser University (NCAA Div. II) will also be there. We’ve got some injuries, so not everybody will be wrestling. But it’ll be a good event.”

Both Cascades teams own U SPORTS national rankings heading into their home tourney. The men’s team is No. 4, while the women are No. 7.

Wrestlers to watch: Parker McBride and Ana Godinez Gonzalez are both fashioning outstanding rookie seasons on behalf of the Cascades. Both are ranked No. 2 in the U SPORTS individual rankings in their respective weight classes – McBride (Duvall, Wash.) in the men’s 54 kg, and Godinez Gonzalez (Surrey, B.C.) in the women’s 63 kg. Both brought home hardware from the recent Alberta Golden Bears Invitational. Godinez Gonzalez, after missing most of the fall due to injury, took gold in her Canada West debut, while McBride earned silver.

WBB: Cascades look to secure playoff berth vs. T-Wolves

Kate Head and the Cascades can lock up a Canada West playoff berth with a pair of weekend wins at UNBC.

Friday, Jan. 26: Cascades (6-10, 13th in Canada West) at UNBC Timberwolves (8-10, T-10th in Canada West), 6 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 27: Cascades at Timberwolves, 5 p.m.

Webcast: CanadaWest.tv

The Cascades women’s hoopsters are squarely on the playoff bubble, sitting 13th in Canada West; only 12 teams will advance to the post-season. But with four games left on their schedule, they have a unique opportunity this weekend. If they’re able to win both games at UNBC, they’d move past the Timberwolves and lock up a playoff berth. Even a weekend split has the potential to move them back into the top 12 heading into their final home games (Feb. 2-3 vs. Manitoba).

Earning wins in Prince George is easier said than done, though – the T-Wolves are the only program in Canada who can boast three players averaging at least 15 points per game. Vasiliki Louka (17.9 points per game) and Maria Mongomo (17.7 ppg) rank third and fourth, respectively, in Canada West conference scoring, while Madison Landry (15.0 ppg) is 17th.

“Louka, Mongomo and Landry are all elite-level players,” noted Cascades head coach Al Tuchscherer, whose team is coming off a bye week. “They’re a real challenge to figure out how to defend. Between the three of them, they can score in a variety of different ways. They’re super-tough in the paint, and very good rebounders. And UNBC is a tough environment to play in.”

Players to watch: Cascades third-year forward Taylor Claggett will be looking to build on a terrific weekend vs. the Thompson Rivers Wolfpack. In her team’s last game action, the 5’11” forward from Mission, B.C. had back-to-back 17-point outings to spark a road sweep of TRU and subsequently earn Canada West female third star of the week honours. The T-Wolves have an outstanding frontcourt presence of their own in the aforementioned Vasiliki Louka. In addition to her offensive productivity, the 6’4” centre from Athens, Greece is a force on the boards, leading Canada West in rebounding (12.1 per game).

MBB: Playoff hopes on the line vs. UNBC

Vick Toor and the Cascades are battling to stay alive in the playoff race.

Friday, Jan. 26: Cascades (5-11, 14th in Canada West) at UNBC Timberwolves (8-10, 10th in Canada West), 8 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 27: Cascades at Timberwolves, 7 p.m.

Webcast: CanadaWest.tv

The Cascades need wins, and fast, if they’re to stay alive in the Canada West playoff race. With four games left on the schedule, Adam Friesen’s squad sits 14th in the conference, two games back of a group of three teams (Mount Royal, Winnipeg and Saskatchewan, all 7-9) immediately ahead of them. They’ll need to overhaul two of those teams in order to earn one of CW’s 12 post-season tickets.

“We understand the position that we’re in, but at the same time, you go into every weekend looking to play your best,” UFV head coach Adam Friesen said. “So in that sense, nothing should change.

“UNBC is a really solid team, and the environment up there can be very good. As a young team, road games for us have been challenging this season. We’re going to be in for a tough test in a multitude of ways.”

Players to watch: Freshman Vick Toor is emerging as a dynamic offensive presence for the Cascades. The 6’0” point guard from Kent, Wash. has scored in double digits in four straight games, including 17- and 18-point efforts on consecutive nights vs. Thompson Rivers. He’s tied for third in team scoring (10.0 points per game), and ranks fourth in Canada West in assists (5.0 per game). The T-Wolves’ balanced attack features four players averaging double-digit points. Fifth-year guard Marcus MacKay (13.0 points per game) is among the conference’s most dangerous long-distance shooters – he averages 2.7 triples per game on 37.5 per cent shooting from beyond the arc, and he recently moved into the top 15 on the Canada West all-time three-pointers list with 178. That list, incidentally, features Cascades alumni at Nos. 2 and 3 overall: Sam Freeman (254) and Manny Dulay (242).

WVB: Cascades aim to keep Blues at bay

UFV’s Kim Bauder (centre) has been an all-around contributor this season.

Thursday, Jan. 25: No. 7 Cascades (10-6, 3rd in PACWEST) at No. 11 Capilano Blues (10-8, 4th in PACWEST), 6 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 27: Cascades at Blues, 6 p.m.

Webcast: pacwestbc.tv

This week’s clash of nationally ranked women’s volleyball teams features plenty of intrigue in terms of the PACWEST standings. The Cascades and Blues find themselves neck-and-neck in the race for the conference’s No. 3 seed, with both teams on 10 wins but UFV boasting two games in hand.

“Everyone’s trying to peak at the right time, working out kinks and trying different lineups,” noted Cascades head coach Mike Gilray, whose team split a pair of games vs. Capilano in Abbotsford back in October.

“The girls are excited to play coming off a bye weekend. It think it was well-timed – we had some aches and pains, and some of those girls are rested up and feeling better. Yesterday’s practice was one of the best we’ve had all season, and hopefully that will lead into a good, competitive battle on Thursday.”

Players to watch: Fourth-year Cascades left side Kim Bauder has been fashioning an outstanding campaign, showcasing her versatile all-around skillset. The Langley, B.C. product not only ranks top-10 in the PACWEST in key offensive stats, including kills (2.53/set, ninth), aces (0.45/set, fourth) and total offence (3.20 points/set, eighth), she also leads the Cascades and ranks seventh in the conference in digs (3.30/set). Much of UFV’s defensive energy this weekend will be devoted to slowing down third-year Blues outside hitter Tyneille Neufeld, who is third in PACWEST in total offence (3.83 points/set).

MVB: First-place Blues pose a stiff test for Cascades

Carter Bronson (12) and the Cascades take on the league-leading Capilano Blues this weekend.

Thursday, Jan. 25: No. 14 Cascades (9-7, 3rd in PACWEST) at No. 6 Capilano Blues (15-3, 1st in PACWEST), 8 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 27: Cascades at Blues, 8 p.m.

Webcast: pacwestbc.tv

The PACWEST-leading Blues are the only team in the league the Cascades have yet to beat this season, having swept UFV in Abbotsford in October. This week offers the Cascades an opportunity to break that head-to-head goose-egg, while tightening their grip on the conference’s No. 3 seed.

“This is an opportunity for redemption that we’ve very much been looking forward to,” UFV head coach Kyle Donen said, noting that senior left side Nick Bruce missed the vast majority of the first weekend vs. Capilano due to injury. “They’ve been playing with a lot of confidence. They’re a good passing team, and when a team passes well, it makes it tough to play defence against their offence. Our goal is to put them in trouble from the service line, but also to do well in our passing game. We’re excited to keep battling on the road, and it’s a bit of a unique schedule with the day of rest in between.”

Players to watch: Cascades fourth-year middle Dayton Pagliericci has been finding increasing offensive success of late. In UFV’s last game action, Jan. 12-13 at Camosun, he racked up nine crucial kills in the Cascades’ five-set win on Friday and posted another five kills to go with three blocks in Saturday’s three-set loss. The Blues’ balanced attack makes them difficult to defend – they have four players in the top 11 on the PACWEST total offence list, led by third-year outside hitter Sameh Khodr (3.63 points/set).

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Indigenizing at UFV

The University of the Fraser Valley is situated on the unceded traditional territory of the Stó:lō peoples. The Stó:lō have an intrinsic relationship with what they refer to as S’olh Temexw (Our Sacred Land); therefore, we express our gratitude and respect for the honour of living and working in this territory.

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