PacWest women's volleyball: Cascades in first place, Bearcats beat national champs

April Van Wieren (8) and the CBC Bearcats notched a breakthrough victory over the defending national champion Vancouver Island University Mariners on Friday. - John Morrow
April Van Wieren (8) and the CBC Bearcats notched a breakthrough victory over the defending national champion Vancouver Island University Mariners on Friday.
— image credit: John Morrow

Just two weeks into the PacWest volleyball season, one thing is clear – Abbotsford boasts two of the top women's teams in the province, if not the nation.

The University of the Fraser Valley Cascades have surged to the stop of the conference standings at 4-0, picking up a pair of weekend wins at home over the Camosun Chargers.

But it was the Columbia Bible College Bearcats who made the biggest splash on the weekend, as they knocked off the defending national champion Vancouver Island University Mariners in straight sets on Friday.

The Mariners bounced back for a straight-sets win of their own on Saturday, but the Bearcats proved they're a team to be reckoned with. Their 1-3 record doesn't necessarily show it yet – they dropped two hard-fought games to UFV to open the season – but they're a bona fide contender.

"It's a huge confidence-builder," said CBC coach Duncan Harrison, who got 12 kills from April Van Weiren and 11 from Sadie Ball on Friday. "We talked all preseason about wanting to be in that group with UFV and VIU.

"Coming so close against UFV (on opening weekend) was a heartbreaker. But playing the way we did against VIU confirmed in our own minds that we're ready to take that step."

Harrison termed Friday's landmark win a "fearless" and "mentally tough" performance by his girls. Saturday's defeat shows there's still room to grow, though.

"A little piece of humble pie never hurt anybody," he noted.

The Cascades, national bronze medalists last year, beat Camosun in four sets Friday, with Krista Hogewoning leading the way with 16 kills, four blocks and 10 digs. They completed the sweep in three sets on Saturday, behind 12 kills from Kayla Bruce.

The story of the weekend for UFV was their impressive depth, as coach Dennis Bokenfohr made sure every player on his bench saw some game action.

"The biggest thing we worked on was having a complete team performance," Bokenfohr noted. "At one point, two of my three captains were on the sidelines at the same time, cheering everyone else on. And we were still doing well, so it was great to see."

On the men's side, the Cascades (1-3) fell to Camosun in four sets on Friday, but bounced back to pick up their first win of the season, a five-setter, on Saturday. Trevor Nickel led the way with 12 points (six kills, five blocks, one ace) in the victory, while Kurtis Stromdahl had a team-high eight kills.

The Bearcats men suffered a pair of defeats against VIU and saw their record fall to 2-2.

• Both local volleyball programs hit the road this weekend. The Cascades take on the Capilano Blues, while the Bearcats face the Douglas Royals.

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