Funk, Cascades finally finish off Mariners in five

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Rachel Funk hammered down the last two kills to lift the UFV women’s volleyball team to a thrilling five-set win over VIU.

After failing in their first two attempts to put away the Vancouver Island University Mariners, Rachel Funk and the University of the Fraser Valley women’s volleyball team simply wouldn’t be denied on the third try.

The Cascades, playing before their home fans at the Student Activity Centre North Gym on Friday, raced out to an early lead, winning the first two sets 25-22 and 25-17.

The Mariners, though, clawed out victories in the next two sets by razor-thin margins: 25-23 and 27-25.

In the fifth, UFV built a 12-9 lead, but their longtime rivals from Nanaimo turned up the heat by taking the next two points. Katie Peacock came swooping in to put away a ball, though, and Funk followed up with a pair of incredibly clutch kills of her own – sandwiching a VIU point – to lift the Cascades to a 15-12 triumph.

“It was a good moment for Rachel tonight,” UFV head coach Dennis Bokenfohr said. “In set four, she had two or three opportunities to win the set for us. We talked about it – she made the right decision, but there’s just that little bit more of an edge. She got another opportunity in the fifth set, and she found a way to do it. It was fantastic.”

UFV improved to 10-7 in PacWest conference play, and gained a bit of breathing room on VIU, which fell to 8-7. Both squads are ranked nationally – the Cascades are No. 9 in the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association (CCAA) national poll, while the Mariners are No. 13.

The two teams renew hostilities on Saturday (1 p.m., Student Activity Centre North Gym).

Bokenfohr termed it “a great team performance” on Friday. The outside-hitter trio of Funk, Peacock and Michelle Zygmunt turned in their most complete effort of the season in their coach’s estimation, and middles Kierra Noot and Emily Carroll came up with huge blocks to spark the Cascades in the first two sets. Monique Huber came on in the fourth set to re-energize the team with four aces, and Bokenfohr also lauded the play of setter Nicole Blandford and libero Amy Davidson.

“We were working at practice all week on how to play tough in the key moments, and we fought through a really big one there at the end,” said Bokenfohr. “That was kind of fun to watch.”

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