Two days after his team’s stunning playoff upset of the Winnipeg Wesmen, University of the Fraser Valley women’s basketball coach Al Tuchscherer was still having a hard time coming to grips with his program’s new reality.
The seventh-seeded Cascades, after sweeping the best-of-three series against the No. 2-seeded Wesmen, are off to the Canada West Final Four this weekend in Saskatoon.
And regardless of where they finish, the Cascades are going to the CIS National Regional Championship Tournament. The new national playoff format calls for the Canada West champ to advance directly to the Final Eight in Windsor March 18-20, while the second- through fourth-place finishers travel to NCAA-style regional events against teams from other conferences.
“I’m not even sure I’ve completely wrapped my head around it,” Tuchscherer said. “It’s huge. It’s where we envisioned ourselves being, but I wasn’t sure it was going to happen this year.”
The ninth-ranked Wesmen finished second in the conference with a 20-4 record. But the Cascades (12-12) executed the game plan to perfection, playing near-flawless defence and moving the ball unselfishly on offence.
Rookie centre Sarah Wierks (Chilliwack) was huge, going for double-doubles both nights – 18 points and 16 rebounds Friday, and 10 points and 13 boards Saturday.
“Even though we’re a young team, the girls have really matured,” Tuchscherer said, alluding to the fact that all but two players on his roster are in their first or second seasons of eligibility. “They’ve taken their games to another level.”
The Cascades open the Final Four on Friday against the host Saskatchewan Huskies, the top-ranked team in Canada.