No longer will the UFV Cascades women's basketball team be able to sneak up on any of the heavy hitters in Canada West, or the CIS for that matter. Their secret is out.
The Cascades should be a force to be reckoned with this season, as evidence by their No. 9 seed as of the first CIS rankings of the season that came out Tuesday.
"It's pretty exciting," said fifth-year guard Tessa Klassen.
"It's actually quite flattering that a lot of the coaches in Canada feel that way about us, but it's also a bit of a distracter. Last year we kind of came into games as more of the underdog and people didn't know what to expect.
"Now teams will have a target on us. So it will be kind of a different approach this year but it's definitely a super exciting thing."
Cascades head coach Al Tuchscherer shared a similar opinion.
"I suspected we'd get the votes and that was nice," said Tuchscherer, adding expectations on this year's team have gone up both internally and externally.
"But it's based on the past and not what you've accomplished."
Happy for the recognition, the Cascades know they will have to prove themselves as one of the up and coming programs in the country.
They made it to the Canada West Final Four last season and nearly qualified for the CIS championship tournament after competing in the inaugural CIS East Regional Championship.
The journey of returning to that level again officially begins Friday when the Cascades travel to Kamloops for a two-game series against the Thompson Rivers University Wolfpack.
The Wolfpack didn't register amongst the top 10 schools nationwide, but will prove as a stern opening test for the Cascades nonetheless.
"Thompson Rivers is a veteran team, they've got some good fourth and fifth-year players, but they've also some good young kids," said Tuchscherer. "Then there is their size. They're huge. That's going to be the biggest challenge for us is dealing with their size. We definitely don't want to get into a grind it out kind of game."
For their part, the Cascades are by no means an undersized team, but neither are they the biggest. That's where their speed and talent will be asked to take over.
"We've got some tall players but our strength is our quickness and kids who can shoot," said Tuchscherer.
The Cascades and the Wolfpack open the season Friday at 6 p.m. PDT in Kamloops.
CIS TOP 10 RANKINGS
1. Regina (0-0) (-)_
2. Windsor (0-0) (-)_
3. Carleton (0-0) (-)_
4. Saskatchewan (0-0) (-)_
5. UBC (0-0) (-)_
6. Cape Breton (0-0) (-)_
7. Acadia (0-0) (-)_
8. Alberta (0-0) (-)_
9. Fraser Valley (0-0) (-)_
10. Ottawa (0-0) (-)