Over the past two seasons, the University of the Fraser Valley men’s soccer team has had a knack for giant-slaying.
Specifically, they’ve fared uncommonly well against the UBC Thunderbirds, the reigning powerhouse of Canadian university soccer.
Last season, UBC cruised to its second straight CIS national championship with just one loss on its ledger . . . which came at the hands of the Cascades on Sept. 8, 2013.
The Thunderbirds are extremely strong again this season, and came into Friday’s home game vs. UFV holding the No. 1 national ranking on the strength of a flawless 8-0-0 record.
Ninety minutes later, they were undefeated no more.
Colton O’Neill scored on a penalty kick in the 62nd minute, and Justin Sekhon notched the winner in the 89th as UFV prevailed 2-1 at Thunderbird Stadium.
“We seem to have a little bit of incentive when we play them,” Cascades head coach Alan Errington acknowledged. “Without trying to give too much away, I think the tactics we play against them suit us.
“We have the utmost respect for them – they’re the best team in the country by a country mile. But it comes down to our players. They’ve executed very well.”
The victory enabled the Cascades (5-4-0, 15 points) to leapfrog the UBC Okanagan Heat (4-5-1, 13 points) for third place in the Pacific Division of Canada West. The top four teams make the playoffs. UBC (8-1-0, 24 points) still boasts a comfortable four-point cushion on the Victoria Vikes for top spot.
On Friday, UFV’s O’Neill twins combined to open the scoring in the second half.
Connor O’Neill was fouled in the box and drew a penalty, and his brother Colton stepped to the spot and slotted the ball past UBC keeper Luke O’Shea for his team-high fourth goal of the campaign.
The T-Birds equalized on a penalty of their own, as Navid Mashinchi beat Cascades keeper Mark Village in the 72nd minute.
But in the late going, UFV seized the victory. Connor MacMillan got the play started, controlling the ball in the corner before feeding Sekhon. His shot took a deflection and found the near corner behind O’Shea.
“I was just floating at the top of the box, and Connor MacMillan had the ball and I made a run and was pretty open,” Sekhon recounted. “He put it right in my path.
“All the guys step up (against UBC), because we know they’re the No. 1 team in Canada.”
Errington termed it “a very good, professional performance” by his side.
“We’re delighted,” he said. “We deserved to win, to be honest with you. I thought we had the better chances on the night.”
The triumphant Cascades return home to Panther Field at Abbotsford Senior Secondary on Saturday to play their final home game of the regular season. They take on the Victoria Vikes at 7:30 p.m., and will honour five graduating players – Village, defenders Ravi Singh and Trevor O’Neill, midfielder Ryan Liddiard, and forward Juan Pablo Mora Perea – in a pregame ceremony.