The University of the Fraser Valley men’s soccer team handed the Victoria Vikes their first loss of the season on Saturday, and picked up their first home win in the process.
The Cascades surged ahead with a pair of goals early in the first half at Abbotsford Senior Secondary, courtesy Colton O’Neill and Michael Mobilio. From there, they leaned on some stellar goalkeeping and strong defence to see them through to a 2-1 victory.
UFV improved to 2-2-0 on the season, tied for third in the Pacific Division of Canada West. Despite the loss, the CIS No. 8-ranked Vikes remain first in the Pacific at 3-1-1.
“It’s huge – a massive result,” enthused Cascades head coach Tom Lowndes, whose team was coming off a tough 3-2 loss to UBC on Friday. “UBC and UVic is a tough weekend, and if you’d offered us three points at the start of the weekend, we’d probably snatched it and snatched your hand off.
“But it’s a building step, and it’s another step in the right direction for us.”
O’Neill, the Cascades’ captain, opened the scoring in the 11th minute on a penalty kick. UVic defender Keevan Webb was deemed to have contacted the ball with his hand in the box and O’Neill took advantage, driving a hard shot down the centre of the goal to give UFV the lead.
The Cascades scored again in the 22nd minute, as Mason Thompson delivered a perfect through ball to Mobilio who made no mistake. Vikes keeper Noah Pawlowski watched the ball settle into the bottom right corner of the net, extending UFV’s lead to 2-0.
UVic would get one back in the 25th. The Vikes pounced on a broken UFV play and immediately turned the ball towards goal. Dominic Colantonio charged forward and found Cam Hundal to his right who struck the ball in off the left post behind UFV goalkeeper Alex Skrzeta for his second goal of the season.
Skrzeta preserved the Cascades lead in the 39th minute. Vikes midfielder Sam Prette broke in alone and fired the ball low and hard to the corner of the net, but the UFV keeper dove to his left and parried the ball wide of the post.
The Cascades’ keeper was again called into action in the 51st minute. Hundal, looking for his second tally of the game, broke down the right wing and drove the ball on goal. Skrzeta ranged to his left and smothered the ball to negate the scoring chance.
Midfielder Connor MacMillan had a chance to extend the Cascades’ lead in minute 73 after Connor O’Neill touched the ball into his path. MacMillan took a touch forward into the box but UVic keeper Pawlowski quickly closed on the attacker and made a sliding save.
UVic had another chance at goal in the 77th minute. After some impressive ball movement in the offensive third, forward Craig Gorman punched a rising strike from 20 yards out. Skrzeta lunged quickly to his right and smothered the ball, securing the Cascades’ victory.
“It’s definitely a turning point in the season,” Mobilio asserted. “Last night (vs. UBC) we came out and we definitely deserved at least a point, or a win. We couldn’t get it, but tonight we proved ourselves.”
“We worked really, really hard tonight,” Lowndes analyzed. “Being 2-0 up in 20 minutes, it’s not a situation we find ourselves in too often, and we let them back in on a sloppy goal.
“But I challenged them at halftime – could we come out with the same intensity and desire that we came out with in the second yesterday against UBC? We knew it was going to be tough and we were going to have to defend for periods, because UVic was going to come at us. But I couldn’t be more proud of our effort or the way we defended in the second half to get the win.”
UFV now heads to Prince George for a pair of games versus the University of Northern British Columbia Timberwolves, Sept. 26 and 27.
The Vikes return home to take on the UBC Okanagan Heat on Saturday before welcoming the Thompson Rivers WolfPack the following night.
– by Russell Arbuthnot, UFV Cascades communications staff