Al Tuchscherer’s biggest challenge this weekend was keeping his University of the Fraser Valley women’s basketball team mentally invested for the entirety of their two-game series vs. the Mount Royal Cougars.
The Cascades are a national powerhouse, ranked No. 3 in Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS), while the Calgary-based Cougars are a fledgling program in just their second season in the nation’s top post-secondary league.
The decisive nature of the results was hardly a surprise – UFV prevailed 79-35 on Friday at the Envision Athletic Centre with Sarah Wierks (11 points, 13 rebounds) and Shayna Litman (11 points) leading the way, and 77-46 on Saturday behind 13 points apiece from Litman and Kayli Sartori. The Cascades out-rebounded the Cougars by massive margins along the way (45-22 on Friday and 48-22 on Saturday).
That’s not to say head coach Tuchscherer was entirely happy. On Saturday, he pointed to his team’s 24 turnovers and the fact they were outscored 15-11 in the fourth quarter as signs they weren’t as mentally sharp as they could have been.
“You’d like to think they’ll go out and just play hard for 40 minutes every night, but unfortunately human nature is to look at the scoreboard and see what’s going on,” he noted.
“You’ve got to be able to fight through that kind of stuff. It’s the challenge we issued them, and I thought for three quarters we did a decent job, and then in the fourth quarter, not so good. We go into the fourth quarter shooting 48 per cent, and we end up shooting 41 per cent for the game.”
If it sounds like Tuchscherer is nit-picking, it’s because he knows his team needs to be firing on all cylinders this week, when they hit the road to face two elite programs – the No. 5 Alberta Pandas on Friday, and the No. 4 Saskatchewan Huskies on Saturday. As if the games themselves aren’t tough enough, the Cascades have to endure a six-hour overnight bus trip from Edmonton to Saskatoon in the middle.
“It’ll for sure be the biggest test we’ve had this season,” Tuchscherer said.
The Cascades (6-0) should be relatively fresh, though, as three key rotation players took breathers vs. Mount Royal. Nicole Wierks sat out on Friday, while Sarah Wierks and Courtney Bartel didn’t dress Saturday. UFV’s deep 14-player roster allowed for what Tuchscherer termed “maintenance days.”
“We’ve got Alberta and Sask coming up on the road this week, and we just gave them an extra day to get ready for that,” he explained.