Friday’s clash between nationally ranked women’s soccer teams lived up to its billing, as the University of the Fraser Valley Cascades and Calgary Dinos battled to a 2-2 draw in an exciting, fast-paced game at MRC Sports Complex.
The No. 5-ranked Dinos were staked to a 2-0 lead by Natalie Arnett, who scored in the 37th and 49th minutes. The No. 9-ranked Cascades dug deep, though, and drew even on goals by Danica Kump and Simi Lehal – each player picking up an assist on the other’s goal.
UFV had several opportunities to pick up the win in the dying minutes, but Calgary keeper Sophia Traxler came up with huge saves on Lehal and Kara Delwo to secure the single point for the visitors.
The Cascades (8-2-3, second in the Pacific Division) wrap up the regular season on Saturday against the Lethbridge Pronghorns (5:30 p.m., MRC Sports Complex), while the Dinos (9-1-3, first in the Prairie Division) finish up on the road against the Trinity Western Spartans (5 p.m. start).
“I’m really proud of the girls – they didn’t quit, came back against a good side, and in some ways unlucky not to win there with the number of chances we had,” UFV head coach Rob Giesbrecht said afterward. “We’ve got to learn that we can’t dig ourselves that hole. Coming back from 2-0 down is tough, but I’m proud that we worked hard, proud that we didn’t give up, proud that we kept attacking.”
The Dinos got their goals on either side of halftime. Arnett opened the scoring off a feed from Jordan Smith late in the first half, and then finished off a through ball from Mollee Ramsay into the bottom corner just after the break.
But the Cascades kept clawing away, and around the 60th minute, the tide turned. UFV would out-shoot Calgary 9-6 in the half, with a 5-1 edge in corners.
In the end, it was a fifth-year veteran and a rookie who teamed up for the key offensive plays. Senior midfielder Kump cut the deficit in half in the 64th minute, pouncing on a rebound off Lehal’s initial shot. Lehal, a first-year striker, levelled the score five minutes later on a gritty effort, fighting through contact to knock the ball home on a goalmouth scramble.
The Cascades had numerous chances off corners that they couldn’t quite connect on, and Lehal later ran onto a through ball and manoeuvred around Traxler, but the Calgary keeper recovered to stop her shot from a tight angle.
Delwo had a great look just before the final whistle from inside the penalty area to the right, but Traxler made the save.
“I wish there were a couple more minutes,” Kump said afterward. “As soon as we got that second one, we felt (another) one coming. I swear we had another one in us, and we got robbed on a couple chances. But you can’t think about it – they’re a good side, and we put up a good fight.”
Giesbrecht praised the play of Kump and Lehal in leading the comeback.
“Simi showed what she can do in terms of her physical force and her attacking mentality – she’s deadly,” he said. “And Kumper’s energy was fantastic today – she was buzzing. I’m really proud of our players, because you just saw the commitment they had on the park today.
“We’re never going to throw the white towel in, no matter what’s happening to us. We’re going to keep going and keep working as hard as we can, and try to get the results our way.”