MSOC weekend preview: Huge weekend of home games with reigning national champs, playoff adversaries on the docket

Friday: Cascades (1-2-1, 5th in Pacific Division) vs. No. 1 Alberta Golden Bears (3-0-1, 1st in Prairie Division), 6 p.m.

Saturday: Cascades vs. Calgary Dinos (2-2-0, 3rd in Prairie), 6 p.m.

MRC Sports Complex, Field 4

Webcast: canadawest.tv

Both of the Cascades men’s soccer team’s weekend matches carry a level of intrigue. Friday’s guests, the Alberta Golden Bears, are the reigning Canada West conference and U SPORTS national champs, and they’re currently ranked No. 1 in the nation. The Calgary Dinos, who visit Saturday, dealt the Cascades a bitter 2-0 defeat in the 2016 Canada West quarter-finals.

So the stakes are high, and there’s no shortage of motivation for the hosts.

“It’s a big weekend – it’s the type that reminds you why you play university sports,” Cascades head coach Tom Lowndes said. “It’s two big tests for us, beginning with the defending national champions and a very talented squad in Alberta. We’re going to have to be at our best to combat what they have to offer, and to cause problems for them too.

“With Calgary, there’s unfinished business and that’ll give us extra motivation on Saturday night. It’ll be a battle, and it’s something we’re looking forward to. I’m excited to see how our young teams shapes up, and how we embrace the challenge.”

Players to watch: The Cascades’ Gurmaan Jhaj is coming off an outstanding offensive performance, albeit in a losing effort, in last Saturday’s 4-2 defeat to the Thompson Rivers WolfPack. The third-year midfielder from Aldergrove, B.C. scored a highlight-reel goal and added an assist, and he’ll aim to maintain that form vs. Alberta and Calgary. The Golden Bears’ Ajeej Sarkaria will merit a great deal of the Cascades’ defensive attention – the 2016 Canada West player of the year set a conference record last season with 19 goals in 16 games. He’s off to another great start – his four goals are tied for the CW lead. The Dinos’ Bori Falaye also won conference hardware last season, claiming the rookie of the year award. He’s notched two goals in two games this season.

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