The University of the Fraser Valley women’s soccer team saw its season come to an end in heartbreaking fashion on Saturday, as the Victoria Vikes edged them in penalty kicks in the opening round of the Canada West playoffs.
Playing under consistently windy and occasionally rainy conditions at Abbotsford Senior Secondary, the two teams battled for 120 tense minutes of regulation and overtime without a goal, necessitating a penalty shootout with a trip to the Canada West Select Six on the line.
Victoria went a perfect five-for-five on their attempts from the penalty spot, and Vikes goalkeeper Meaghan Storie made a pivotal save on UFV’s second shooter, Shelby Beck. The game will go down as a 1-0 UVic win (5-3 on PKs).
“Soccer can be cruel,” Cascades head coach Rob Giesbrecht said afterward. “Somewhere along the line, people thought PKs would be a good way to decide a soccer game, and sometimes that goes your way and sometimes it doesn’t. Today we came up short. It’s a cruel way to end our year, but I’m very proud of how my team played today, and how they played this year.
“UVic’s an outstanding team – they’re loaded with talent, and they’re well-organized. I didn’t think there was much between the two teams throughout the game. I thought we may have edged them in the 90 minutes, but I thought in extra time, they really started taking over a little bit.”
The Cascades carried most of the play in a scoreless first half, putting three shots on net and earning five corner kicks, but Storie kept UFV off the scoresheet. In the 33rd minute, Cascades midfielder Brittney Zacharuk lifted a shot on net from distance, but Storie rose up and tipped the ball off the crossbar.
UFV keeper Kayla Klim replied with a nice save of her own, turning away an effort on net by the Vikes’ Mia Gunter to ensure her team entered halftime level.
In the 59th minute, Cascades sophomore striker Monika Levarsky had a great chance to open the scoring after Beck played her in behind the Vikes’ defence. Levarsky cut into the box and had a try on goal but Storie read the play quickly, broke off her line to cut down the shooting angle, and parried the ball away. UFV midfielder Amanda Carruthers, who had followed the play in, had a secondary shot at goal but it bounced wide of the left post.
A rare call in the 72nd minute gave the Vikes an opportunity to take the lead, as the Cascades were whistled for playing the ball while on the ground at the edge of their own six-yard box. The Vikes’ Sarah Douglas tapped the ball to Stephanie Badilla Gutierrez, and she drove the ball on net against an assemblage of Cascades, who had formed a nine-woman wall across the goal line and managed to block the ball’s path.
The best chance during the two 15-minute OT halves was generated by the Vikes, as Emma Greig got on the end of a cross into the box and fired a volley labeled for the bottom corner. But Klim ranged to her left to make a spectacular save and push the ball wide.
In the PK shootout, Storie gave the Vikes the advantage with her stop on Beck. Klim nearly answered with a save of her own – Kiara Kilbey, Victoria’s fourth shooter, fired a low shot, and the UFV keeper dove left to get a hand on it. But she didn’t get quite enough of it, and the ball snuck inside the post. Badilla Gutierrez, the Vikes’ fifth shooter, sealed the victory when her rising shot found the twine to the right of Klim.
In the locker room afterward, Giesbrecht told his team he was proud of them. And indeed, there’s much for this group of Cascades to be proud of. Coming off a Canada West silver medal and a fourth-place finish at CIS nationals in 2014, they spent a team-record seven weeks in the national rankings this season and earned the right to host the program’s first-ever Canada West home playoff game.
“I asked the girls at the start of the game to have no regrets with how today went, and I encouraged them after the game that they shouldn’t have regrets,” Giesbrecht said. “They played hard, and they played well. We were very positive and assertive throughout the game, especially in the first 90 minutes. We just couldn’t turn that positive play into a goal.”
Cascades captain Dayle Jeras – one of three fifth-year players, along with Beck and Jade Palm, whose university soccer careers are now complete – said she’s “proud of the team.”
“I’m very proud of being part of this program for five years,” Jeras said. “It’s been amazing – I don’t want it to be over. I’m very upset that it’s over, and it’s weird that it is. That’s who I am – ‘Hi, I’m Dayle. I play soccer.’
“But I know I’m always welcome back – the girls are amazing. I’m so proud of all of them. . . . This program is amazing and has so many great things to come.”
– with files from Russell Arbuthnot, UFV Cascades communications staff