The glow of winning a national championship was still fresh for the University of the Fraser Valley women’s volleyball team when they set their sights on a new goal – one that might be even tougher to attain.
With the program’s first-ever Canadian Colleges Athletic Association (CCAA) title secured, thanks to a clinical three-set win over the host Lakeland Rustlers on Saturday evening in Lloydminster, Alta., the giddy Cascades players were determined to draw some deep emotion out of head coach Dennis Bokenfohr.
Specifically, they wanted him to cry.
“I think they’re going to try to get a heartfelt speech out of me,” Bokenfohr said with a chuckle via cellphone, as the Cascades drove back to their team hotel to continue a celebration that began at the Lakeland gymnasium.
“But I’m staying strong. They’re trying to make me cry – it’s not going to work.”
Whether or not the players ended up inducing the waterworks from their usually stoic bench boss, the night was, without a doubt, an unqualified success.
Facing a sixth-seeded Lakeland squad which had ridden the adrenaline of its home crowd all the way to the final, the top-ranked Cascades wasted little time draining any suspense from the proceedings.
UFV dominated the first two sets by scores of 25-12 and 25-10, then sealed the title with a 25-20 triumph in the third.
National player of the year Kayla Bruce paced the offence with 11 kills, while Krista Hogewoning and Katie Bilodeau had eight kills apiece and Jenna Evans chipped in with seven kills and three aces. Libero Brittany Stewart notched a team-high 11 digs, while setter Kira Tome picked up player of the game honours.
Evans, a fourth-year outside hitter out of Abbotsford’s St. John Brebeuf Regional Secondary, was selected MVP of the national tourney. Bruce and Stewart were named to the first all-star team and Bilodeau to the second team.
“We came out with a pretty good game plan,” noted Bokenfohr, whose team beat the Mount Saint Vincent University Mystics and the Cégep Garneau Elans en route to the final. “The girls knew what to do, it was just a matter of execution.”
Bruce said it would take a while for the thrill of winning a national title to fully sink in.
“That was my last game as a fifth year (player), and we won a national championship,” she marvelled. “It’s really exciting, and I’m going to remember it for a really long time.”
The Lakeland gym was packed with over 1,000 fans cheering on the home side, and Bokenfohr said the buzz in the building was “outstanding.”
“It was just a fun atmosphere to play in, and our girls relished it,” he said. “They had smiles on their faces right from the time they stepped into the gym, and they built off it.”
BEARCATS FINISH EIGHTH
The tournament was a learning experience for the Columbia Bible College women’s volleyballers.
The Bearcats, making their debut at nationals, lost all three games and finished eighth. They wrapped up their run with a five-set defeat (25-22, 17-25, 14-25, 25-23, 15-12) to Mount Saint Vincent in the seventh/eighth placing game on Saturday afternoon.
Sadie Ball (15 kills) and April Van Wieren (14 kills) had big games offensively, while Sharaya Schulte racked up 26 digs.
“Like any program, the first time you get on the big stage, you get a little bit of the deer-in-headlights going on that first day,” CBC coach Duncan Harrison noted.
“The competition was excellent, and I was really proud of our kids. I thought they played extremely well, and represented our conference and our school and our city really well. I’m really proud of what we’ve done, and it’s something we can build off of.”