With hours until tip-off, the expectations appear to be high for the University of the Fraser Valley Cascades women’s basketball team.
The annual Canada West preseason poll has the women ranked third in the conference and the club actually received one first-place vote by opposing coaches. The Winnipeg Wesmen (14) and the Calgary Dinos (two) were the only other teams to get that recognition.
The women are coming off a 16-4 record and a playoff quarter-finals elimination in 2019-20, and it’s that mix of experience and youth that head coach Al Tuchscherer believes can make his team a contender.
“Our squad has a lot of youthful energy and along with that comes optimism and hope for a great season,” he said. “I think one of the things, particularly early, that’s going to be an advantage for some teams is the experience and the veteran players they have. Even though we have a young roster, we do have players that have played a lot of basketball and have had a lot of different experiences in the game. I’m hoping that will serve us well.”
Veterans Victoria Jacobse and Alexis Worrell will provide some of the leadership, but offensively it will be the sophomore trio of Deanna Tuchscherer, Maddy Gobeil and Nikki Cabuco that should carry the load. Tuchscherer was the Canada West rookie of the year in 2019-20 and averaged 15.4 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. Gobeil (8.8 ppg) and Cabuco (6 ppg) both made big strides as rookies and are expected to make another leap this season.
Despite Canada West cancelling last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, both Tuchscherer and Gobeil went to Europe to continue playing basketball. Tuchscherer played professionally in Hungary and Gobeil competed in France. They will bring that experience to Abbotsford this season.
“Our sophomores are going to lead us with regards to the intensity and the competitiveness that they bring,” Coach Tuchscherer said. “They have the game to back that up on a consistent basis.”
So excited to play 4 YEARS together!! https://t.co/Dum6hx2bEs
— Deanna Tuchscherer (@deannamae462) March 30, 2021
Rookie Julia Tuchscherer joins her father and sister on the team and is also expected to be a big difference maker. She joins front court talent Natalie Rathler, Madison Draayers and Madeline Beerwald.
The women went 1-2 in preseason action and open the CW season against the UBC-O Heat tonight (Friday) at 6 p.m. They then host the UNBC Timberwolves on Saturday (Oct. 29) at 5 p.m.
🏔🏀 | Taking a closer look at Cascades MBB… in infographic form!
🗞 Full @CanadaWest conference preview: https://t.co/0p37SlKEXU#WeClimbWeConquer pic.twitter.com/i68cnIBKIK
— UFV Cascades (@UFVCascades) October 28, 2021
For the men, it’s a brand new coach and a lot of new players for 2021-22 and CW coaches weren’t too sure what to make of the team, ranking them 14th in the preseason poll.
The men finished 13-7 in 2019-20 and were also eliminated in the quarter-finals, but there are only three players returning from that team. Guards Vick Toor, Jordyn Sekhon and Kenan Hadzovic are back and new head coach Joe Enevoldson stated that he believes his team has the potential to succeed.
“I think we have a high ceiling in terms of Canada West play,” he said. “We’re looking forward to growing every single day throughout the season and look forward to peaking at playoff time. We showed our depth in the preseason – everybody had ample opportunities to be successful, and they’ll all be expected to come in and bring consistent performances.”
The returning veterans will be leaned on, but newcomer guard Zubair Seyed could emerge as an offensive threat. The Ontario native returns to Canada after playing in Daytona State College (Florida) and Dixie State University (Utah). He earned Mid-Florida Conference all-star honors back in 2018-19 with DSC.
Suraj Gahir, a local product who spent last season redshirting at NCAA Div. I California Baptist, will also look to make an impression in the backcourt, alongside Dylan Kinley and Jiordano Khan – who both played for Enevoldson at Douglas College – and Ahmad Athman, a rookie from Toronto.
“Depth-wise, we’re pretty happy with our guard play,” Enevoldson said. “It’s definitely one of our strengths, with an ability to play multiple people in multiple scenarios. Whoever’s playing well on a specific night is going to play a little more.”
The Cascades’ frontcourt is brand-new to Canada West play and it includes Kyle Claggett, a former member of UFV’s championship-winning men’s golf team, who has made the switch to basketball. Aidan Wilson and Matthias Klim, both also figure to see minutes at centre.
Dario Lopez, a forward from Spain, and Jake Willemsen, who transferred from Lane Community College, will suit up for the Cascades at power forward.
The men played two preseason games, losing twice to the Victoria Vikes.The men tip-off against the Heat tonight at 8 p.m. and then battle the Timberwolves on Saturday (Oct. 30) at 7 p.m.
Admission is free for both the men’s and women’s games on Friday. Per provincial COVID-19 regulations, fans age 12 and over will be required to show proof of full vaccination to enter the UFV Athletic Centre, masks must be worn at all times, and capacity will be capped at 50 per cent.
Tickets for Saturday’s games, and the balance of the fall semester, will be discounted to $5 for adults, while school-aged students (and UFV students with student ID) will be admitted free.
Since it’s been so long since the last time we had meaningful home-court basketball games (623 days, to be exact!), we wanted to do something special for our fans.
And since the best things in life are free… how does free admission sound?!#homeopener #WeClimbWeConquer pic.twitter.com/21gTMcePrV
— UFV Cascades (@UFVCascades) October 28, 2021