Cascades, Heat battle to 1-1 stalemate

On a soggy Saturday evening at MRC Sports Complex, the UBC Okanagan Heat rallied in the second half to earn a 1-1 draw with the University of the Fraser Valley women’s soccer team.

The host Cascades built a 1-0 lead on a spectacular strike from Brittney Zacharuk in the 16th minute, but were unable to extend their lead despite numerous chances prior to halftime. That left the door open for the Heat, and they took advantage – Ally Ferronato scored on a penalty kick in the 53rd minute to secure a point for her squad.

The Cascades (4-2-2) sit fourth in the Pacific Division, while the Heat (0-6-2) are eighth.

“Full credit to our opponents – they played hard and they played well,” UFV head coach Rob Giesbrecht said. “We weathered an early storm, and I felt in the middle part of the first half we took over. Brit got her goal, and we had a few good looks after that. The sign of a mature team is, you put a team away at that point. In our maturation process, we’re not quite there yet.

“It’s tough to give up a penalty goal on an awkward bounce. But that’s soccer.”

Brittney Zacharuk found herself in the centre of a celebration after her outstanding goal in the 16th minute.

Zacharuk’s ice-breaking goal was a thing of beauty – the third-year midfielder intercepted a UBCO clearing attempt and fired away from 30 yards out. The ball soared over the outstretched arms of Heat keeper Francesca Balletta and went bar-down.

Zacharuk said she heard teammate Simi Lehal hollering that Balletta was off her line, so she had a crack at goal.

“I’m a left-footer, but I touched it to my right because it was wide-open,” she said. “I kind of shut my eyes and said, ‘Let’s see what I can do.’ . . . I just hit it, and bar-down. Best right-foot shot I’ve ever taken.”

The Cascades continued to press and had several glorious opportunities to extend the lead. Two of them came off the boot of Lexie Gillette, but the UFV forward fired wide in the 24th minute and hit the post in the 28th.

Just after halftime, Harneet Dadrao made a run down the left wing and got another excellent look for the Cascades, but Balletta dove to her right to stop the UFV rookie’s hard, low shot.

Shortly thereafter, a Heat cross into the box took an unlucky bounce off Cascades defender Marianne Spring’s knee and hit her in the arm, and the referee award a penalty kick. Ferronato stepped up and picked the top corner to the left of UFV keeper Emily Harold.

It was the first goal conceded by the Cascades in five games – a span of 423 minutes (or more than seven hours of game-play) since Lethbridge’s Lindsay Amatto scored against UFV in the 80th minute on Sept. 16.

UBCO carried the play for the next 10 minutes after knotting the score, and appeared to have the go-ahead goal off a free kick. But the referee quickly waved it off – the Heat’s Erica Lampert had swatted the ball into the net with her hand, and received a yellow card in the aftermath.

The Cascades calmed down and resumed their attacking posture, and had several great chances. Most notably, off a Dadrao corner, Balletta got her hands on the ball and tipped it off the crossbar, and Lehal’s follow-up effort from point-blank range went over the net.

UFV is back in action this coming week with a home-and-home set vs. the Trinity Western Spartans – 5 p.m. at TWU on Friday, and 2 p.m. at MRC Sports Complex on Sunday. The Heat have a home-and-home of their own against the Thompson Rivers WolfPack – 5 p.m. on Thursday at UBCO, and 2 p.m. on Saturday at TRU.

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