Cascades tie Vikes 2-2 to clinch home-field advantage for first round of playoffs

Ties are generally considered less-than-thrilling results, but the University of the Fraser Valley women’s soccer team’s 2-2 draw on the road vs. the Victoria Vikes on Saturday was one that will go down in program history.

UFV midfielder Amanda Carruthers scored in the 81st minute to knot the score and achieve an unprecedented outcome for her team. The Cascades, for the first time ever, will host a Canada West playoff game.

The Vikes came into the evening requiring a victory to overtake UFV for third place in the West Division, and they looked to be in good shape at halftime, leading 2-1 and controlling the proceedings.

Cascades midfielder Harman Billen protects the ball against pressure from a UVic opponent on Saturday. ( photo)

Cascades midfielder Harman Billen protects the ball against pressure from a UVic opponent on Saturday. ( photo)

But after the break it was all Cascades, and after several close calls, senior midfielder Shelby Beck dashed through the Vikes defence to the right edge of the box, where she delivered a cross that found Carruthers all alone at the far side of goal. UVic keeper Meaghan Storie could only watch as the third-year midfielder from Calgary fired the ball into the yawning cage.

The Cascades (8-4-2, 26 points) and Vikes (7-3-4, 25 points) won’t have to wait long to renew hostilities – they’ll be opponents in the first round of the Canada West playoffs. The game goes Saturday, Oct. 31, at 4 p.m. at Abbotsford Senior Secondary.

“I’m very proud of my team and where our program has come, because of the quality kids we have,” Cascades head coach Rob Giesbrecht said. “We’ve showed throughout the year that we can get results against good teams. If you do that often enough, you earn the right to host a playoff game, and now we can focus on getting ready for next weekend.”

The Cascades had a terrific start to the game, dominating possession and forcing Storie to work hard in the early minutes to keep it scoreless. But UFV was not to be denied, and broke through in the 10th minute, as Beck slipped a pass over to Brittney Zacharuk. The rookie midfielder had plenty of time and space to unleash a rocket into the top left corner.

The Vikes wrested away control, though, and drew even on Emily Lieuwen’s goal in the 15th minute. Off a corner, the ball fell to a Victoria player, and UFV keeper Kayla Klim made a sensational save from point-blank range. But Lieuwen followed up and buried the rebound.

Cascades centre back Dayle Jeras clears the ball out of harm's way. ( photo)

Cascades centre back Dayle Jeras clears the ball out of harm’s way. ( photo)

The hosts continued to carry the play, and were rewarded in the 25th minute off another corner. The ball ricocheted out to Stephanie Badilla Gutierrez at the top of the box, and she fired a bar-down rocket to give the Vikes a 2-1 lead.

After halftime, though, the Cascades regained the momentum. They out-shot UVic 12-4 over the second 45 minutes, and earned five corners to just one for the hosts. Finally, they got the equalizer from Carruthers – her second goal of the season.

“Coming into the game at half, I knew I needed to put everything I had on the field,” Carruthers said. “Thanks to the hard work of the girls around me, I was able to put one in the back of the net.”

UFV had every opportunity to win the game outright, but Storie was sensational in the dying minutes. On a looping ball into the box, she came charging out to meet Beck and smother her volley. Shortly thereafter, she leaped to her left to tip away Monika Levarsky’s rising shot that was ticketed for the top corner.

Beck had an opportunity to give her team the lead in the 89th minute after a Vikes defender handled the ball in the box, but her attempt from the penalty spot ran just wide of the left post.

Gurneet Dhaliwal had a subsequent chance, but Storie was there once again, leaping to knock her hard shot away.

“The first 15 minutes, I told the girls at halftime, was probably the best 15 minutes we’ve played this season – and then, really struggled from that point on (in the first half),” Giesbrecht noted. “The momentum shifted, and we just couldn’t get it back. UVic is such a good team – so dangerous going forward. We had to make some adjustments at half and have some girls step up, and I’m so proud of how they responded.

“We asked the girls to put the next level of energy and commitment in, and they did it. We forced a lot of good saves out of their goalkeeper.”

Beck, with her two assists on Saturday, moved into sole possession of first place in Canada West with nine assists this season.

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