Al Tuchscherer could have easily written off his team’s two-and-out performance at the CIS women’s basketball nationals as one of those proverbial “valuable learning experiences.”
His University of the Fraser Valley squad was, after all, making its debut at the CIS championship, and they were seeded seventh in the eight-team draw at the University of Regina.
But that’s not how the Cascades head coach is wired. In the aftermath of his team’s two defeats – 62-57 to the Saint Mary’s Huskies in Friday’s quarter-finals and 70-52 to the McGill Marlets on the consolation side Saturday – Tuchscherer bemoaned a missed opportunity.
“It was pretty disappointing, there’s no doubt about it,” said Tuchscherer, whose Cascades were never ranked lower than No. 4 in the nation during the regular season and peaked at No. 1 in January.
“Quite frankly, it’s an unacceptable result for the season we’ve just had. There’s a lot of unfinished business here. I don’t think we played particularly well.”
The Cascades trailed Saint Mary’s by 14 points at the start of the fourth quarter on Friday, but reeled off a 13-0 run to get within a point at 51-50. The Huskies staved off UFV down the stretch, however.
Nicole Wierks did a great job defensively on Saint Mary’s star guard Justine Colley, limiting the national player of the year to 17 points on 4-of-18 shooting from the field.
But Tuchscherer was perturbed by the officiating – UFV was whistled for 21 personal fouls compared to just eight for the Huskies, and Saint Mary’s boasted a 22-9 edge in free throw attempts.
“It sounds like sour grapes at this point, but in the middle of it, you’re like, ‘This can’t be happening right now,'” he said. “It was pretty disheartening. I don’t know how many coaches came over to me after the game and said it was ridiculous, how did your team maintain its composure. It was just quite sick, to be honest with you.
“Every 50-50 battle was a foul for us. It was beyond crazy.”
After playing the late game on Friday, UFV was in the early game Saturday vs. McGill, and they struggled offensively, shooting just 27.7 per cent from the field en route to a decisive defeat.
Kayli Sartori scored 15 points in the loss, while Aieisha Luyken chipped in with 12 and Jaslyen Singh notched eight points off the bench.
“It wasn’t our best effort, for sure,” Tuchscherer noted.
The Cascades figure to be among the nation’s elite again next season, with every player on the roster eligible to return. But that’s of little solace to Tuchscherer at this point.
“We can look at that, but there’s no guarantees – it’s tough to get there (to nationals),” he noted. “I have a problem with our team, if that’s what we’re thinking: ‘Let’s go this year and react to what happens.’ We can’t be reacting to what happens. We need to go there and kick down the door and make it happen.”
The Cascades did get one big win last week – fourth-year guard Alexa McCarthy took home the Sylvia Sweeney Award at the CIS All-Canadian banquet on Thursday. The award recognizes the Canadian women’s university basketball player who best exemplifies the values of athletics, academics and community involvement, and McCarthy became the second UFV player to win the award, joining Michelle Buhler (2007-08).
Tuchscherer said he’s proud his program is establishing a legacy that extends beyond the game of basketball.
“It was a real proud moment for our program, there’s no doubt about it,” he said. “She (McCarthy) kind of stole the show, too, at the banquet with her acceptance speech. It was just phenomenal.
“It was really from the heart, talking about the experience of a student-athlete and the bigger picture. . . . I had a lot of real positive feedback from a lot of coaches, and the new CEO of the CIS (Pierre Lafontaine) was blown away by her speech.”