By Dan Kinvig. With each passing game, Sarah Wierks’s legacy with the University of the Fraser Valley women’s basketball team comes into sharper focus.
It’s becoming apparent that the 6’2″ centre from Chilliwack, now in her fifth and final season of eligibility, isn’t just one of the greatest players in Cascades history – she’s one of the all-time elite players in the Canada West conference.
Cover Photo: Sarah Wierks is climbing the Canada West all-time lists for a variety of stats, including rebounding UFV photo..
Case in point is her ascent up the conference’s career rebounding list. Wierks started the season in ninth place all-time and has risen to third place with 908 rebounds, just four shy of second-place Janis Paskevich (912). It’s highly likely that the Chilliwack native will pass Paskevich, the former Calgary Dinos star (1977-1982), during her team’s next game – Friday night at home vs. the UBC Okanagan Heat (6 p.m. tip-off, Envision Athletic Centre).
First place is out of reach – Canada West’s all-time rebounding leader is Sarah Crooks of the Saskatchewan Huskies (2002-07), and Wierks would have to grab 34.1 boards per game to match Crooks’s eye-popping total of 1,181. That’s not going to happen.
Total rebounds, though, is just one way to assess Wierks’s consistent excellence over the years.
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Canada West conference all-time stats
Further breaking down Wierks’s carom-collecting prowess, she’s currently third on the Canada West career list for offensive rebounds (385), sixth in defensive boards (523), and her per-game average of 10.68 combined rebounds is fourth-best all-time.
She’s 42nd on the career points list with 1,187, and is on pace to finish well inside the top 30. She’s also primed to break the record for most conference games started (on pace for 105).
During her remarkable senior season, she’s registered double-doubles for points and rebounds in 10 of 12 games, lifting her to second on the Canada West all-time double-doubles list with 35.
Her conference-leading rebounding average this season (13.8) would tie her for the second-best single-season average on record.
UFV women’s basketball records
In similar fashion, Wierks is rewriting the Cascades’ team record book.
Since UFV joined Canada West in 2006-07, Wierks is the women’s basketball team’s all-time leader in points (1,187), field goals made (417), free throws made (347) and attempted (487), and blocked shots (84) in conference play.
She’s also poised to set single-season marks for scoring average (19.6) and field goal percentage (53.2), and to shatter her own records for total rebounds and rebounding average in a season.
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Individual numbers, impressive though they are, still don’t encapsulate Wierks’s contributions to the Cascades.
Head coach Al Tuchscherer points out that UFV’s current streak of four straight trips to the Canada West Final Four began when Wierks arrived on campus for the 2010-11 season.
“I don’t think it’s a coincidence,” he said. “Sarah’s had an incredible impact on the success of our program since her first year.
“For her to be moving up the ladder on the all-time rebounds list is just a testament to her five years of excellence here. She’s passing people who, when we first got into the CIS, were kind of untouchable players – players who we didn’t know how to defend or compete against. And she’s among those players now.”
Wierks, who also happens to be in line for her fourth Academic All-Canadian nod, said that her lofty status on the Canada West career stat lists caught her by surprise.
“It’s exciting, that’s for sure,” she said. “It’s something I can be proud of leaving the CIS.”
Wierks and Tuchscherer agreed that her breakthrough performance this season has coincided with a change in mindset. In years past, Wierks put a lot of pressure on herself, but she’s more relaxed as a fifth-year senior.
“Before, I was always anxious about my game and that I wouldn’t get to where my goals were,” she explained. “This year, I’ve just gone about it really loose . . . Letting it go and not worrying about it has definitely been beneficial.”
“There’s a real maturity in her game this year,” Tuchscherer echoed. “She’s not worried about all that external stuff. She just plays.
“I think it’s a fifth-year thing. You see a lot of players get to that point – where they’re still super-competitive, but they’re at peace with their career.”
As well she should be.
Weekend snapshot: Basketball and volleyball teams play at home
Wierks’s progress up the all-time conference lists is hardly the only historical storyline in play on a busy weekend at the Envision Athletic Centre.
• The Cascades men’s basketball team is aiming to extend its 26-game Canada West regular season win streak as the UBC Okanagan Heat come to town. Games run Friday (women 6 p.m., men 8 p.m.) and Saturday (women 5 p.m., men 7 p.m.) in the EAC main gym.
UFV leads the Explorer Division at 12-0, while the Heat bring up the rear at 2-10. David Manshreck leads UBC Okanagan in scoring (16.1 points per game) and rebounding (6.9).
The Cascades have six players averaging double-figure scoring, led by Nate Brown (15.1) and Kevon Parchment (14.4).
• The women’s basketball game on Friday marks the Cascades’ eighth annual Shoot for the Cure night, a fundraiser in partnership with the B.C./Yukon chapter of the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. The team will be selling T-shirts and wristbands with the Shoot for the Cure logo, and will be soliciting direct donations from fans.
The weekend set vs. UBC Okanagan holds major playoff implications – the Cascades occupy the third and final Explorers Division playoff spot with a 6-6 record, while the Heat are two games back at 4-8. Sarah Allison is UBC Okanagan’s top scorer at 13.2 points per game.
• The UFV volleyballers take on the Vancouver Island University Mariners on Friday (women 6 p.m., men 8 p.m.) and Saturday (women 1 p.m., men 3 p.m.) in the North Gym.
The Cascades women have built a fantastic rivalry with the Mariners in recent years, and there’s plenty at stake this time around. UFV sits third in the PacWest conference with a 9-7 record, while VIU is hot on their heels in fourth place at 8-6. Both teams are also ranked nationally – the Cascades are No. 9 in the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association (CCAA) national poll, while the Mariners are No. 13.
• The UFV volleyball men face a tough test this weekend in the Mariners, who sit seventh in the CCAA national rankings and third in the PacWest conference at 9-5.
The Cascades reside in fifth place in the PacWest at 6-10 on the season, and are looking to shake off a seven-game losing skid. But they can draw confidence from the fact they played the Mariners tough in Nanaimo in the first semester – they dropped a five-setter back on Oct. 31 (16-14 in the fifth set).