Cascades women’s volleyballers punch ticket to nationals

For the first time in program history, the University of the Fraser Valley women's volleyball team is headed to the national championship.

Cascades women's volleyballers punch ticket to nationals

For the first time in program history, the University of the Fraser Valley women’s volleyball team is headed to the CCAA national championship.

The Cascades punched their ticket by winning a silver medal at the PacWest provincial playoff tournament on the weekend at Douglas College in New Westminster. The top two teams from the conference earn national berths.

It’s an accomplishment even more amazing in light of the fact that just a couple months ago, UFV was considering cutting the program – along with men’s volleyball, men’s golf and rowing – as a cost-saving measure. All four teams’ futures have since been assured for next season, and a long-term funding plan is in the works.

“It feels like a big weight off our shoulders,” Cascades head coach Dennis Bokenfohr enthused. “Now, we can move forward. We want to do this consistently.”

The second-seeded Cascades had a first-round bye, meaning that their opening game of the playoffs – Friday’s semifinal vs. the Capilano Blues – was a do-or-die scenario for a national berth.

The UFV women came through with flying colours, beating the Blues in four sets (25-23, 25-23, 14-25, 25-20).

Middle Kayla Bruce, the PacWest MVP, and outside hitter Jenna Evans were the offensive stars in the win, but Bokenfohr was most impressed with the gritty performance turned in by setter Jill Saunders.

At practice last Wednesday, Saunders suffered a seriously strained quadriceps muscle in her left leg. With backup setter Nicole Blandford already sidelined with mono, Saunders had little choice but to play.

“It’s one of the gutsiest performances I’ve ever seen,” Bokenfohr said. “She basically couldn’t move laterally at all – she could only move forward and backward. She was barely walking on it Thursday, so for her to play at all this weekend was pretty impressive.

“We kind of kept it hush-hush, but every time she moved, everyone was holding their breath.”

In Saturday’s gold medal game, the Cascades women lost in three sets to the Vancouver Island University Mariners of Nanaimo, who will host the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association (CCAA) national tourney March 8-10.

UFV will be seeded fifth at nationals, and open against the No. 4 Humber Hawks of Etobicoke, Ont. in the quarter-finals.

BEARCATS MEN WIN BRONZE

There Columbia Bible College men’s volleyball team already knew they’d be heading to nationals, by virtue of the fact they’re hosting the event March 8-10 at their Abbotsford campus.

The Bearcats managed a podium finish at provincials, though – they fell in the semifinals to the eventual champion Douglas Royals, but bounced back to beat the Camosun Chargers to clinch third.

The CBC men will be seeded sixth at nationals, and open against Alberta champion Mount Royal of Calgary in the quarter-finals.

The Bearcats women’s volleyball team finished just shy of the podium – they fell to VIU in three sets in the semifinals, and dropped another three-set decision to Capilano in the bronze medal game.