The University of the Fraser Valley men’s soccer team built momentum for their 2016 Canada West campaign with a solid runner-up performance at the Keg Spring Cup in Victoria on the weekend.
The exhibition tourney featured the host UVic Vikes, UBC Thunderbirds and Trinity Western Spartans on the men’s side, along with the Cascades.
UFV opened against UBC, the reigning Canada West champions and CIS bronze medalists, and battled the T-Birds to a 2-2 stalemate at the end of regulation time with Elijah Sampson and James Najman supplying the Cascades’ goals.
The ensuing penalty shootout was epic to say the least – it lasted an incredible 17 rounds before UFV midfielder Kree Byrne converted his attempt from the spot and keeper Alex Skrzeta came up with a save (his third of the PK shootout) to seal the win.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Cascades head coach Tom Lowndes marveled. “There was one game last year in the MLS, Portland and Kansas City (which went a league-record 11 rounds), but I’ve never been involved in one like that as a player or coach. It was pretty crazy, but it was a cool way to win the semifinal.”
In the final vs. UVic, the Cascades opened the scoring in the 10th minute as Sampson converted a feed from Najman. But the Vikes drew level in the 38th minute, and got the go-ahead goal off a corner in the 61st. They hung on for a 2-1 win.
“I thought for 30 out of 45 minutes in the first half, we were the better team,” Lowndes said. “We had two mistakes that gave them two goals. At 2-1, we had a couple good chances, and their keeper made some good saves. We just couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net, and sometimes that’s just how it goes.”
The Cascades open the Canada West regular season on Sept. 2 at home vs. the Thompson Rivers WolfPack, and Lowndes said his team’s performance on the weekend stands them in good stead as they build towards that.
“The spring is always a difficult one, because it’s tough to replicate the intensity of a regular-season contest,” he noted. “But we did well. Overall, I’m very happy with how the weekend went. I think we caused both UBC and UVic problems. It was a good weekend.”