Levarsky’s second straight hat trick lifts Cascades past Pandas

A week ago, Monika Levarsky was in a scoring slump.

Not any longer.

On Saturday, the third-year forward scored a hat trick for the second straight evening to pace the University of the Fraser Valley women’s soccer team to a 3-1 victory over the CIS No. 8-ranked Alberta Pandas at MRC Sports Complex. Levarsky’s scoring outburst came on the heels of a four-goal effort in Friday’s 6-0 win over the UNBC Timberwolves.

The Surrey, B.C. product had gone scoreless in the first six games of the Canada West regular season; after her seven-goal weekend, she’s suddenly tied for second in the conference and has established a new personal season-best with eight goals.

“I think that this week, I mentally prepared myself better,” Levarsky analyzed afterward. “I didn’t do anything spectacular . . . I just made sure I was in the zone, made sure I was constantly thinking about the game and what I was going to do to impact it.

“Yesterday (against UNBC) was really motivational . . . I didn’t want to let down, and I took my opportunities and scored.”

The victory was a huge one for the Cascades, who are battling with the Pandas – among other teams – for seeding in the Pacific Division and were able to put some additional distance between them on Saturday. UFV (6-1-2, 20 points) is second in the Pacific, while Alberta (4-2-2, 14 points) is fifth but has a game in hand.

Levarsky picked up right where she’d left off on Friday – she nearly scored on the Cascades’ very first offensive foray, only to be stopped point-blank by Alberta keeper Cassie Bazzarelli and the ball cleared out of harm’s way by a Pandas defender.

The Cascades were undeterred, and opened the scoring in the second minute. UFV’s striker duo combined on the play, with Gurneet Dhaliwal slipping a sweet feed through and Levarsky finishing top-corner.

Gurneet Dhaliwal (right) had a strong game on Saturday, assisting on UFV's first goal.

Gurneet Dhaliwal (right) had a strong game on Saturday, assisting on UFV’s first goal.

Danica Kump had a great chance to make it 2-0, as she was sent in on the left side. But Bazzarelli came out to stop her hard shot from close range.

Alberta equalized in the 20th minute on a tremendous free kick by Aly Parth. Setting up just outside the top right corner of the 18-yard box, Parth sent a hard, low shot into the opposite corner.

The Pandas had significant offensive traction to begin the second half – after being out-shot 10-3 over the first 45 minutes, they owned a 12-9 edge in shots after the break.

UFV keeper Kayla Klim came up big to keep the score tied. Alberta’s Sydney Daines was sprung on a partial breakaway, but Klim came out to make the stop and then recovered to block Daines’s follow-up effort. The fifth-year standout also had great command of the six-yard box on a couple of dangerous Alberta corners.

The Cascades had their chances, too, in what had become a wide-open game. Amanda Carruthers was sent in on a breakaway and manoeuvred around a hard-charging Bazzarelli, but Pandas defender Fallon Dickie hustled back to clear Carruthers’s shot off the line.

The Cascades broke through in the 82nd minute. After Kump was taken down in the box, Levarsky stepped to the penalty spot and made no mistake, picking the bottom corner to the left of Bazzarelli. She completed the hat trick in the 87th after beating an Alberta defender to a through ball – Bazzarelli made the initial stop, but she was out of position for the rebound, and Levarsky rolled it into the yawning net.

In the aftermath, Cascades head coach Rob Giesbrecht had plaudits both for Levarsky and for Klim, who made seven huge saves in the win.

“Moni was getting chances the whole way through a little bit of a scoring slump at the start of the year, and she was creating chances for others too,” he noted. “I was quite pleased with her play, and we were confident the goals were going to come. I’m not sure I was confident she’d get seven in one weekend, but we’ll take that.

“And Kayla steps up big when we’re not playing well . . . She rose to the occasion, and without that performance from her, the score line’s very different tonight.”

The Cascades hit the road next Friday to face the Pacific Division-leading Trinity Western Spartans (5 p.m. start), while the Pandas head to Prince George for a Saturday-Sunday set against UNBC (12 p.m. starts both days).

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The University of the Fraser Valley is situated on the unceded traditional territory of the Stó:lō peoples. The Stó:lō have an intrinsic relationship with what they refer to as S’olh Temexw (Our Sacred Land); therefore, we express our gratitude and respect for the honour of living and working in this territory.

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