Sophomore striker Elijah Sampson’s first goal of the season lifted the University of the Fraser Valley men’s soccer team to a 1-0 win over the UNBC Timberwolves on Saturday afternoon in Prince George.
In the 60th minute, Cascades captain Colton O’Neill sent a corner kick into the box where it bounced around and landed at the feet of Connor O’Neill (Colton’s twin brother), who banged a shot off the post. Sampson, a second-year Cascade from Abbotsford, was there to bury the rebound.
That stood up as the game-winner, and Cascades keeper Alex Skrzeta made three saves in his second shutout of the campaign. That’s tied for the most in Canada West with UVic’s Noah Pawlowski and Mount Royal’s Kamil Zielinski.
UFV improved to 3-2-0 on the season, good for third in the Pacific Division, while UNBC fell to 1-4-0. The two teams clash again on Sunday in Prince George. Kickoff is at 2:15 p.m., following a game between the Cascades and T-Wolves women’s soccer squads at noon. Both matches will be webcast at canadawest.tv.
“We started slow – the first 15 mintues we were second-best,” UFV head coach Tom Lowndes analyzed. “We took a bit of time to get into the game . . . but we got a foothold going into halftime, and we came out in the second half with a lot more intensity and desire. You could tell right from the kick-off.
“There wasn’t too many clear-cut chances, but you only need one. When we got our chance, we took it. We were strong towards the end of the game.”
While the Cascades registered just one shot in the first half, the Timberwolves had the better of the play in the opening minutes, highlighted by a shot from Chilliwack product Conrad Rowlands that just missed the target.
But Lowndes’s charges started to gain traction in the latter stages of the half, and they came alive after the break, out-shooting the hosts 9-1 the rest of the way.
After Sampson’s ice-breaking goal, UNBC’s best chance at an equalizer came in the 86th minute, when they had a set piece opportunity from 30 yards out. But Francesco Bartolillo’s attempt sailed high over the net, and the T-Wolves would get no closer.
Lowndes credited a trio of players who came off the bench – Sampson and midfielders Kree Byrne and Dylan McCrindle – with shifting the momentum in UFV’s favour.
“Those three really changed the game for us and got us going in the second half,” he said. “They were the catalyst for the good things that happened.”
– with files from Geordie Carragher, UNBC Athletics