Canada West home openers for the Cascades men’s soccer team highlight a busy weekend of action for the University of the Fraser Valley athletic department.
Head coach Tom Lowndes’s squad began the regular season on the road last week, picking up a win over the UBC Okanagan Heat and a loss to Thompson Rivers WolfPack on a jaunt through the Interior of B.C.
They return to their home pitch at Abbotsford Senior Secondary this weekend for a pair of marquee matchups against nationally ranked opponents. The CIS No. 7-ranked UBC Thunderbirds (0-0-1) are in town on Friday, and the No. 8 Victoria Vikes (2-0-1) are the guests on Saturday. Start time is 7:30 p.m. both nights.
The Cascades women’s soccer team also plays at home – they take on Thompson Rivers on Friday and UBCO on Saturday (both games at 5 p.m. at Abby Senior). The UFV women’s basketball team hosts the Calgary Dinos in exhibition matches Friday and Saturday (6 p.m. both nights, Envision Athletic Centre), while the golf teams head to Surrey for the Kwantlen Eagles’ tournament.
“It feels like a long time since we’ve played at home,” said Lowndes, whose team comes in tied for third in the Pacific Division of Canada West at 1-1-0. “You can stick to your routine a bit more, and paying in front of your friends and family is always big. The lads are excited.”
Friday’s UFV-UBC men’s soccer clash marks a return to Abbotsford for Gagan Dosanjh, a local product who is in his fifth season with the T-Birds. The midfielder/forward was the Canada West MVP and the CIS championship MVP in 2012, and is back at UBC after two seasons with FC Edmonton of the North American Soccer League. He scored UBC’s lone goal in a season-opening 1-1 draw with Victoria.
The Cascades’ early-season offence has been generated by fourth-year veteran midfielders Connor MacMillan and Kree Byrne, both of whom dented the twine in UFV’s 2-0 win over UBCO last Saturday.
The T-Birds have had tremendous success in recent years, winning back-to-back CIS national championships in 2012 and 2013. But the Cascades have fared very well against them – each of the past two seasons, they’ve handed a previously undefeated UBC side its first loss of the campaign.
“It’s always tough playing UBC – they’re always a top program,” Lowndes noted. “But in the past couple years, our lads have found a way to rise to the challenge, and they like playing UBC. They get up for it.”
The last time UFV and UVic squared off, the Cascades suffered a gut-wrenching defeat – Cameron Stokes scored just before the final whistle to give the Vikes a 2-1 win in the Canada West quarter-finals last October.
Victoria looks solid again this year – the current Pacific Division frontrunners are being paced offensively by midfielder Craig Gorman (three goals on a conference-leading 18 shots) and defender Keevan Webb (two goals).
“We lost a heartbreaker to them last year in the playoffs, and it’s still fresh in my mind and I hope it’s fresh in the players’ minds,” Lowndes said. “It should give us a little added motivation this weekend. But we’re going to have to be at our best to get a quality result.”
WSOC: Cascades aim to preserve undefeated record
The UFV women’s soccer team comes into this weekend with the No. 7 CIS ranking, while neither of their opponents are mentioned in the top 10.
But head coach Rob Giesbrecht is quick to note that both Thompson Rivers (2-1-1, first place in the West Division) and UBCO (1-1-2, third place) are tough foes who have proven they can get results against quality teams on the road.
Cases in point – the Heat earned a 1-1 draw vs. the West Division-leading Manitoba Bisons in Winnipeg on Sept. 5, while the WolfPack tied a very good Alberta Pandas side 2-2 in Edmonton on Sept. 11.
“Both of them are improving programs that are looking to establish themselves,” Giesbrecht said. “It’s going to be a couple of tough games.”
“I’m looking to build upon the solid effort we had, but try to establish more consistency in our execution,” Giesbrecht said. “That hurt us against UVic – we didn’t execute that well. In the first half we weren’t creating the quality chances, and in the second half we weren’t converting the quality chances.”
WBB: Cascades host Dinos in preseason
Basketball fans have a chance to take an early look at the UFV women’s squad this weekend as they play host to the Calgary Dinos in a pair of exhibition games at the Envision Athletic Centre. Admission is free to both games.
The Cascades have seven additions to the roster this fall, including 2014 CIS national championship all-star Kayli Sartori (back at UFV after taking last season off), 2013-14 Canada West rookie of the year Sydney Williams (a transfer from Thompson Rivers) and reigning PacWest conference player of the year Shayna Cameron (a transfer from Quest University).
“It’s a really early opportunity to see our team together – some of the new kids playing against another Canada West opponent,” Cascades head coach Al Tuchscherer said. “You don’t necessarily like to play this early, but it brings some focus to practice. We can really see what we need to focus on the next few weeks before our next round of games – what areas we’re OK in, and what areas we need to spend some time on.”
GOLF: Cascades aim to make up ground at Kwantlen tourney
Playing at Surrey’s Northview Golf and Country Club, site of the second of four PacWest conference tournaments, is something of a home game for the UFV golf team. The event, hosted by the Kwantlen Eagles, runs Saturday and Sunday.
“Northview is a course that a lot of our players, being from this area, have a lot of experience at in their playing careers,” Cascades head coach Chris Bertram said. “We’re aiming to play well there and make up some ground on those teams that got out in front of us last weekend.”
The UFV women’s squad currently sits second in the PacWest, having posted a combined score of 345 at the season-opening UBC Okanagan tourney. UBCO leads the way at 329.
The Cascades men are third at 597, and are looking to close the gap on the Camosun Chargers (580) and UBCO (592). Ryan Graf will make his season debut for UFV, having earned a roster spot during a qualifying round at Northview on Tuesday.
“He’s just been one of those guys who’s been working hard to crack the lineup,” Bertram said of Graf. “He’s earned a spot.”