Curtis’s late goal lifts Ottawa past UFV in national bronze medal game

The University of the Fraser Valley women’s soccer team fell achingly shy of the podium at the CIS national championships, dropping a 2-1 decision to the Ottawa Gee-Gees in the bronze medal game on Sunday morning in Quebec City.

The Cascades dominated the first half at Telus-UL Stadium, and took a 1-0 lead when Jade Palm headed the ball home off Tristan Corneil’s corner kick in the 19th minute.

Bronze - Ott - UFV - credit Stephane Gaudreau (21)But they were unable to expand the lead despite numerous chances, and that left the door open for the Gee-Gees in the second half.

Ottawa striker Pilar Khoury drew her team even in the 71st minute on a penalty kick, and Sophie Curtis scored the game-winner in the 90th.

“We never really regained a foothold in the game,” UFV head coach Rob Giesbrecht said afterward. “I guess we’re paying the price for not getting more goals in the first half, because we were absolutely fantastic.

“We needed to bury a few of those chances to get the result we were after.”

The UFV women’s soccer team was in search of the second CIS medal in program history – they took bronze in their previous trip to nationals in 2010.

They took a great run at it on Sunday.

The Gee-Gees generated a couple of early chances – Cascades keeper Kayla Klim had to be sharp to stop a tricky back-heel attempt – but UFV soon set about dominating the proceedings.

Tristan Corneil, on a shot from distance, forced Ottawa keeper Cynthia Leblanc to make a spectacular leap to tip the ball over the crossbar. On the ensuing corner, Corneil set the table for Palm to nod the ball inside the far post to open the scoring.

The Cascades pressed for more, and Danica Kump just missed getting on the end of Karlee Pedersen’s cross from the left. Shortly thereafter, Sunayna Samra fired a shot off the crossbar.

Bronze - Ott - UFV - credit Stephane Gaudreau (9)Another Cascades corner yielded more great looks, but Shelby Beck’s header and Carley Radomski’s follow-up shot somehow stayed out.

UFV had a 16-6 edge in shots in the opening half, and took a 1-0 lead to the locker room.

The Cascades continued to carry the play in the early minutes of the second half, but the Gee-Gees slowly wrested away control. Klim came up with a highlight-reel stop on Khoury in the 54th minute, lunging to her right to stop the Ottawa striker on a partial breakaway. Later on, she came sliding out to beat a Gee-Gees attacker to a through ball and snuff another scoring chance.

Bronze - Ott - UFV - credit Stephane Gaudreau (37)Ottawa broke through after Khoury was taken down in the box. She stepped to the spot and slotted the ball into the bottom corner to Klim’s left.

In the event of a tied score after regulation time, the game was set to go straight to penalty kicks. But the Gee-Gees struck in the dying minutes.

On a dangerous foray deep in the UFV box, the Cascades stopped Khoury’s progress but were unable to clear the ball. It squirted to Curtis at the side of the net, and her point-blank blast found the bottom corner.

Klim was named UFV’s player of the game after a spectacular eight-save performance, and midfielder Kara Delwo was named to the tournament all-star team.

There were tears in the Cascades’ locker room afterward, but Giesbrecht noted that the only three teams to beat UFV this season were the conference champions from Canada West (Trinity Western), Quebec (Laval) and Ontario (Ottawa). All three of those teams will win national medals; tourney host Laval was set to meet TWU in the gold medal match.

So UFV was full value for its fourth-place national finish, which is a fantastic accomplishment. It’s also clear that the Cascades are a program on the rise – every player on the roster is eligible to return in 2015.

“It’s just been an awesome experience,” Giesbrecht said. “Sure, we go home in fourth, but we’re fourth in the country. We’ve got to make sure we go out of here with our heads held high.

“It gives the girls a taste of the national championship, so we can hopefully come back next year and in the years beyond.”

– photos by Stephane Gaudreau

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