Langley, B.C. – Shelby Beck’s goal in the 71st minute on Friday evening simultaneously lifted the University of the Fraser Valley women’s soccer team past the Alberta Pandas into the Canada West final, and into the CIS national championship tournament.
Playing in the Canada West semis on a foggy Halloween night at Trinity Western University’s Rogers Field, Carley Radomski’s slick through ball found Beck in full stride, and she chipped it past onrushing Pandas keeper Kelti Biggs and into the bottom corner of the net.
The Cascades hung on for a 1-0 victory, punching their ticket to CIS nationals for the second time in program history by virtue of their top-two conference finish. Their previous berth came in 2010, and culminated in a bronze medal.
The 2014 CIS tourney runs Nov. 6-9 in Quebec City, but before they fly eastward, the Cascades have one more goal to accomplish in Langley. They face the Final Four host Trinity Western Spartans for the Canada West banner on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Rogers Field.
“Honestly, it was relief – I just wanted to cry with excitement,” Beck said, reflecting on her emotions after the final whistle sounded. “It was so cool just to know that we worked so hard this year and we get to go to nationals. It’s a really cool feeling.”
“I thought the girls played well today,” Cascades head coach Rob Giesbrecht said. “You don’t always get what you deserve, but I think we did deserve the win today, just for our positive play. We kept attacking. Alberta’s a fantastic opponent, so it’s a great victory for us.”
The Cascades, playing before a vocal contingent of fans who made the drive down Highway 1, generated some good looks in the early minutes. Danica Kump and Kara Delwo sent promising crosses into the box, but the Pandas were able to clear the ball away.
Alberta, ranked No. 7 nationally, seemed to steady themselves after 10 minutes had elapsed, but No. 10-ranked UFV was still the more dangerous team in the first half, outshooting Alberta 8-4. They had nothing to show for it, though, and went into halftime tied at zeroes.
The Cascades finally cracked the Pandas’ top-ranked defence in the 71st minute, with Beck supplying the finish. Rookie striker Monika Levarsky got the ball to Radomski, who played Beck through.
“I couldn’t have done it without Dom (Radomski) and Monika,” Beck said. “Our whole team played amazing. It was a perfect through ball, and all I had to do was put it in the corner.”
The Pandas pressed forward in search of the tying goal, and made the UFV supporters sweat on a number of occasions.
Cascades keeper Kayla Klim put her body on the line to snuff one particularly dangerous foray, diving to smother a ball in the box in front of a hard-charging Alberta attacker in the 82nd minute.
The Pandas had a series of free kicks and corners in the dying minutes, but UFV defenders Dayle Jeras, Jade Palm and Tristan Corneil repeatedly cleared the ball out of harm’s way. Klim finished with three saves for the shutout, and has yet to allow a goal through two playoff matches.
“It was a long three minutes of time added on there,” Giesbrecht said with a wry grin.
“This week has been very special. I’ve had girls from the 2010 team email me and encourage me and reminisce about the 2010 run. I’m so happy that this group of girls can experience that. It’s a special time. We’re going to have a great time in Quebec City, but we’re going to be about getting after a national championship. That’s what we’re all about.”
The Spartans beat the Cascades in both of their regular-season meetings, and Giesbrecht said it’s a special opportunity to play their local rivals for the title.
“The stress of whether or not we’re going to nationals, that’s away,” he said. “We can play with a sense of freedom, and just get after them.”
– photos courtesy Scott Stewart, TWU Athletics