The University of the Fraser Valley women’s basketball team opened 2015 with an impressive performance, blowing out the Mount Royal Cougars 85-58 at home.

The victory gave the Cascades (5-4) some breathing room over Mount Royal (3-6) in the race for the third and final playoff spot in the Explorers Division, and snapped a four-game conference losing streak.

Nataliia Gavryliuk hit five three-pointers in the first half to spark the Cascades to a win over Mount Royal.

“It was a good way to open the second half, specifically the first half of the game and into the third quarter,” Cascades head coach Al Tuchscherer said afterward. “I thought we did some things, probably played as good of basketball as we’ve played really all year. That was exciting to see.”

It took the Cascades a couple minutes to acclimatize themselves to the Cougars’ full-court pressure, but once they did, they carried the play in the first half. Defensively, UFV was lights-out, limiting Mount Royal to 14.3 per cent shooting from the field en route to a 27-12 lead after the first quarter and a 46-23 advantage at the break.

Offensively, Nataliia Gavryliuk gave the Cascades a spark. The third-year guard from Kiev, Ukraine, who had missed the last four games of the first semester due to injury, made up for lost time by swishing five of her six attempts from beyond the arc in the first half. She would finish with 20 points.

“Nat is obviously an elite talent in Canada West, and she brings a completely different element to our team,” Tuchscherer noted. “That’s the type of thing that Nat can do. It’s not an unusual thing for her to knock down shots . . . and we missed that a little bit in the first half of the season.”

Fifth-year centre Sarah Wierks also had a big game for UFV – the Chilliwack native racked up a huge double-double with a game-high 21 points and 17 rebounds, along with four blocked shots. Wierks also moved up one spot to fifth on the all-time Canada West rebounding list with 866 boards, passing ex-UBC star Kelsey Blair (852 rebounds).

“Our theme for practices lately is not to be lazy, and to just be animalistic in getting after it on D, and that’s exactly what we did,” Wierks said, breaking down her team’s defensive success on Friday. “I’m really proud that we actually came out and showed that tonight.”

Shayna Litman chipped in with 16 points for the Cascades, while Drew Knox (19 points) and Angela Driscoll (15 points) scored in double figures for Mount Royal.

The Cascades and Cougars renew hostilities on Saturday at 5 p.m. at the Envision Athletic Centre.