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Blues battle back to earn berth in semis

Photo Paul Yates / Vancouver Sports Pictures
Photo Paul Yates / Vancouver Sports Pictures

CJ Pentland, CapU Sport Information Director

Down two sets to none and later facing three separate match points in the fifth set, the Capilano University Blues women’s volleyball team came from behind and persevered in a 3-2 victory over the University of the Fraser Valley Cascades in the quarterfinals of the PACWEST Championships on Thursday afternoon in Cranbrook.

The #5 seed Blues came in as underdogs against #4 UFV, who finished the regular season 14-10 and are ranked 13th in the latest national rankings. And at first it appeared that the Cascades might make a quick afternoon, as they won the opening frames 25-16 and 25-20 to take a commanding two-set lead.

A key point of the match came late in the third set, as UFV led 21-20 and looked poised to close out the sweep. Yet the Blues settled down and found their rhythm, rallying to win the next six points on an Isabela Lima service run to win the set 25-21 and extend the match.

The Blues continued to roll at the start of the fourth, jumping out to an early 5-1 advantage. UFV battled back to tie things at 10, and the two sides then traded one-point leads until CapU broke open a 19-19 deadlock and pulled away for a 25-21 victory that forced a fifth and final set.

It looked as if the comeback might fall short, as UFV staked an early three-point led that eventually brought up match point at 14-11. With no room for error, CapU forced a service error, Meghan Koven delivered back-to-back kills to tie the game, and Sarah Curleigh then brought up match point for CapU with a kill of her own.

The Cascades staved off elimination by winning the next two points and again put CapU on the brink, but the Blues again had an answer. A kill by Jaylene Lucas tied the game and a UFV attack error put the Blues back in front, and after long rally Kelsey Towers delivered a perfectly-placed setter dump that completed the comeback effort.

“I told them that this is what provincials is like, and once they settled in and started playing their own game we wore [UFV] out a bit,” said head coach Dan Huzar, who recorded his first career PACWEST playoff win in his first season with the Blues.

Koven had 16 kills and 11 digs in the contest, and her play in the third and fourth sets was crucial in helping the Blues turn the game around. She was named the Player of the Game for Capilano. “We just stood together and said that we believe in each other and trust each other, and this is what we’ve been working for all season, and that if we believe in each other we can do it,” said Koven about what was said amongst the team heading into the pivotal third set.

“I’ve known Koven since grade eight, so I expect her to play like that all the time and do an outstanding job,” said Huzar. “I have high expectations for her, and she always rises to do quite well.”

Lima added 13 kills and 17 digs for the Blues, and Curleigh had seven and 16 off the bench. Towers had a strong game on both sides of the ball, dishing out 37 assists and totaling 10 digs. 

The Blues will now face the #1 Vancouver Island University Mariners in the semi-final on Friday at 5:00pm PST. CapU was winless against VIU this season, who went 23-1 and has been ranked 1st in the CCAA rankings all season. It’s the 11th season in a row that the Blues will play in the semifinals of the PACWEST championships, and a win would advance them to Saturday’s final and earn them a berth at the CCAA Nationals, hosted by Niagara College of the OCAA. The game can be streamed online at pacwestbc.tv.