The Tuchscherer-coached Cascades-who boast five Chilliwack-area women among their core-will play in the CIS basketball championships in Regina this weekend, having clinched a berth by finishing third at the Canada West finals two weeks ago.
The Cascades are seeded seventh in the eight-team tournament, but spent much of the season as the number-three-ranked women's basketball squad in the country.
While just making the finals is a monumental accomplishment for a basketball program that has been playing at the CIS level for less than a decade, Tuchscherer says his team can beat anyone in the country, if they play the right way and get hot.
"There's nobody in the country that we can't play with," Tuchscherer told the Times Tuesday, a day before the team was to leave for Regina. "It's just a matter of putting together three really quality games in a row here."
"I like our chances. I think we have a real
The Cascades will be tested right away as they will face the AUS Champions Saint Mary's Huskies in their quarterfinal match, which tips off Friday at 8 p.m. A loss anywhere along the way will drop the Cascades out of contention for the national crown.
To win against Saint Mary's, they'll have to shut down CIS leading scorer Justine Colley, who averaged more than 28 points per game in the regular season. A victory over Saint Mary's could land UFV a date with the University of Windsor, who haven't lost all year.
But the Cascades are no slouches and boast a deep scoring attack, a steal-happy defence, and the will to come out on top in individual battles.
Guards Alexa McCarthy and Courtney Bartel have plenty of offensive weapons to distribute the ball to, with Aieisha Luyken, Columbia Valley's Kayli Sartori and the Chilliwack sister duo of Nicole and Sarah Wierks all regularly hitting double digits on the scoreboard.
"We're difficult to defend when we have everybody scoring," Tuchscherer said.
Despite the stage, he says he's asked his team to focus on the little things on the court.
"We don't want to be thinking about the outcome of things, we want to be thinking about all those process things, all those things we do well," he said.
And while the seventh-ranked Cascades could be called underdogs, Tuchscherer said he's asked his team to assert itself immediately.
"When we're aggressive, we're at our best," he said. "That tends to open doors for us. When we're tentative that opens doors for the other team. So we want to come out and be aggressive at both ends of the floor."
Whatever the result, the Cascades have already shown that a new and scrappy school can play with the biggest universities in the country.
"You look at the teams that are at the national tournament," he said. "These are big schools that have been around for decades, if not centuries."
Most of the schools at the tournament have national name recognition and can recruit across the country. The Cascades are working on that, but in the meantime, Tuchscherer was able to draw on a skilled group of Fraser Valley athletes and groom them into a nationally ranked team.
"More than anything," Tuchscherer said, "I'm happy for the girls."
He continued: "They've really just believed in what our mission is . . . Every year I've seen them grow and develop and persevere."