Cascades weather early storm from Avalanche, rally for four-set win in playoff opener

A slow start gave way to a furious finish for the University of the Fraser Valley women’s volleyball team, as they rallied to beat the College of the Rockies Avalanche in their quarter-final match at the PACWEST championships Thursday evening.

The No. 3-seeded Cascades, playing host to the tournament at the Envision Financial Athletic Centre, struggled mightily in the opening set, committing 15 unforced errors en route to a 25-18 loss. The No. 6 Avalanche, meanwhile, were thriving at the net, stymieing UFV’s outside hitters with tough blocking.

The Cascades found their mojo midway through the second, though, taking the next three sets by scores of 25-22, 25-15 and 25-21. They move on to face the No. 2 Vancouver Island University Mariners in the semifinals at 1 p.m. Friday.

Sophomore middle Hanna Hieltjes was the Cascades’ player of the match.

“I’ve been watching the Olympics, and they talk about being on the wrong side of the inch,” Cascades head coach Mike Gilray said afterward. “That’s a quote I gave the girls this week. It’s a curling term. It’s like you’re so close, but you’re just on that wrong side.

“I felt like that was our first set. We were just missing balls – just off the sidelines, some tape serves, a serve out the back. What we talked about was, the great teams keep grinding when they’re struggling. They don’t freak out. That’s what we were doing in that first set – just grinding, grinding, grinding. It just happened that everyone was grinding at the same time.

“We brought down our unforced errors (after the first set), and I think we controlled the match for a large part.”

Sophomore middle Hanna Hieltjes turned in a performance that was both consistent and dynamic – she hammered 12 kills to give the Cascades great offensive balance, hitting at 43 per cent. She was named UFV’s player of the match.

PACWEST first team all-star Amanda Matsui led the Cascades in both kills (16) and digs (15), coming alive as the match wore on. Kim Bauder (eight kills) and Kara Williams (seven kills) also chipped in offensively for the hosts, and Olivia Heinen set the table with 47 set assists. Bauder (13) and libero Cassidy King (11) joined Matsui in double-figure digs.

For the Avalanche, right side Mikaela Pushor picked up player of the match honours after notching seven kills. Taylor Whittall and Megan Beckett registered eight and six kills, respectively. Abigail Horsch racked up three of COTR’s 10 blocks, and libero Ashley Huberts – an Abbotsford product – had a team-best 15 digs.

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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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