A moment of brilliance to open the second half was the difference as the University of the Fraser Valley men’s soccer team earned a huge road win over the UBC Okanagan Heat by a score of 1-0 on Saturday afternoon.
The Cascades mounted a lightning-quick offensive off the second-half restart – three passes linked together, and the ball was in the back of the UBCO net. James Najman had the final touch for his second goal of the season, with Michael Mobilio picking up the assist.
UFV out-shot the Heat 14-5, and goalkeeper Alex Skrzeta registered two saves for his fourth clean sheet of the campaign.
It was a crucial victory for the Cascades (6-6-1), who came into Saturday’s action tied for third in the Pacific Division, but just two points ahead of the fifth-place Heat (4-7-2). While the result doesn’t clinch them one of the Pacific’s four playoff berths, it goes a long way towards securing it with three games remaining.
“It’s never easy to come up to the Interior – it’s a tough place to play,” Cascades head coach Tom Lowndes noted. “Today, the result was the most important thing, getting the three points and moving closer to a playoff spot.”
The Cascades came up empty offensively after a solid first half, but their start to the second was the best kind of déjà vu for Lowndes. In last season’s game in Kelowna, the Cascades had scored just 14 seconds after the second-half restart, courtesy Kree Byne, and they went on to win 2-0 to give Lowndes a victory in his UFV head-coaching debut.
It was more of the same on Saturday, as Mobilio whipped a cross to Najman at the back post for a header just 15 seconds after the restart.
“Almost identical to last year,” Lowndes marvelled. “The next 15 minutes, we were rampant – we should have had a couple more.
“We made things difficult for ourselves when we didn’t take our chances, so we had to stand strong and see the game out.”
Daniel Davidson sent a shot off the post, and the Cascades had another ball go off the crossbar after taking a deflection. Connor MacMillan had a great chance to seal the deal in the 85th minute – the fifth-year midfielder stole the ball and got in on a breakaway, but UBCO keeper Mitch McCaw came charging out and stopped his shot.
The Heat pushed forward in search of the equalizer, but the Cascades were able to snuff most of their forays before they reached the penalty area.
The UFV side wraps up its weekend road swing through the B.C. Interior on Sunday, as they take on the Thompson Rivers WolfPack (6-6-1) at 1 p.m. in Kamloops. The game will be webcast at ufv.canadawest.tv.