Print Edition: October 16, 2013
This past weekend the women’s volleyball team began their quest to become back-to-back CCAA national champions, opening up their regular season with a home and home against the Columbia Bible College (CBC) Bearcats.
The women have 12 returning players from last year’s national championship squad and four new players including Rachel Funk from Pacific Academy, last year’s AA High School Provincial Championship silver medalists, and Mandelyn Erickson from Seaquam Secondary, the AAA silver medalists. The girls are poised to make another strong push toward national championship contention, with returning players like fifth-year Jenna Evans and third-year Kierra Noot (seventh in the league last year in blocks, averaging .74 blocks per game and registering 51 for the season).
Last year the girls were extraordinary all season long, becoming one of the most dominant teams in all of CCAA history and earning the national championship after an extremely hard-fought game against the Lakeland Rustlers of the Alberta Coast Athletic Conference (ACAC). This year’s team was able to hold onto a key leader when Evans decided to return to school for her super-senior year. Evans dominated all last season, earning herself the MVP of the national championship tournament.
However, the team lost three key contributors to last year’s success, including Katie Bilodeau, a second team all-star, Brittany Stewart, one of three first team all-stars, and Kayla Bruce, last year’s CCAA national Player of the Year, who led the PACWEST conference in nearly every statistical category.
When asked if his team felt any pressure to repeat as the national champions this coming year, head coach Dennis Bokenfohr said that the team is feeling relaxed and prepared.
“I would not say pressure to repeat. There have been high standards set over the past two years. It’s a journey and it will be interesting to see where it will take us. Hopes are high and [the ladies] have enough skill to have a shot. That is really all you can ask.”
Four new players were added to what promises to be a strong Cascades team this year: Monique Huber, Claire Mcloughlin, Rachel Funk, and Madelyn Erickson. Both Funk and Erickson will take this season off as redshirts, getting the opportunity to learn and grow from the leadership of the older players on the team without hurting their eligibility and their chances of becoming the future core of a strong program at UFV.
“It was a different decision for two very good players. It was a matter of this year not having enough room for them on our game-day roster. I am impressed by their effort and enthusiasm each practice though. I really think the future is bright for both of them,” Bokenfohr said.
In contrast, both Huber and Mcloughlin will get the opportunity to immediately impact the squad. Both will start this season on the game-day roster, with Huber becoming the third-string middle and Mcloughlin taking on the role of back-up setter. Bokenfohr commented on their efforts so far this season saying they were “looking great.”
With four starters leaving from last year’s team, one focus this offseason was developing team chemistry.
“With a new team and new leadership, I would say [we’re focused on] just getting to know one another. [The team] spent a lot of time together and [are] getting to know each other on different levels. For many it was as much them getting to know who we are and my system, as well as me trying to figure out what makes them tick,” Bokenfohr explained.
The games against CBC this weekend went as the women planned. They controlled both their home court and Columbia’s, winning back-to-back games three sets to none, and hope to continue their winning ways against Douglas College on Friday, October 18.
It is difficult to say if this squad has the talent and chemistry to repeat as national champions, but with strong coaching, excellent recruitment, and a robust start the Cascades women have served notice that a return to the big game is a strong possibility.