Second-half outburst powers Cascades past T-Wolves

UFV’s Tripat Sandhu (centre) notched her first career Canada West goal on Sunday. (UFV Athletics file photo)

After a slow start, the University of the Fraser Valley women’s soccer team came to life offensively in the second half on Sunday afternoon, igniting a 3-0 road win over the UNBC Timberwolves.

Tripat Sandhu, Gurneet Dhaliwal and Taylor Nekic scored for the Cascades – all after halftime – and goalkeeper Emily Harold registered three saves for her third consecutive shutout.

Coming on the heels of a 1-0 win over the MacEwan Griffins on Friday in Edmonton, Sunday’s result completed the first six-point weekend of the 2017 Canada West campaign for the Cascades (3-2-1, fifth in the Pacific Division). The Timberwolves fell to 2-4-0.

The game featured noteworthy milestones for UFV rookies Sandhu and Nekic, who each notched their first career Canada West goals.

“I think it’s fantastic that these young kids are getting opportunities, and they’re answering,” Cascades head coach Rob Giesbrecht said. “I’m so proud of them.”

The Cascades generated few clean looks at goal in the first half. Their best chance came off a UNBC turnover – Harneet Dadrao intercepted a T-Wolves pass and sent it to Dhaliwal, but her shot went just over the bar.

The Timberwolves found increasing traction as the half wore on, and they continued to press as the second half opened. But the Cascades’ defensive structure was solid, and UNBC’s forays were consistently turned aside by the UFV backline led by Karlee Pedersen and Simi Lehal.

The Cascades finally broke through in the 57th minute. Dhaliwal sent a corner kick into the box and it bounced around dangerously for a few moments before landing at Sandhu’s feet. She fired a low shot into the bottom left corner.

Dhaliwal made it 2-0 in the 69th minute, stripping the ball from a UNBC defender and scoring on a shot to the back post from 25 yards out.

Nekic salted the game away in the 77th, scoring from close range off a free kick by Lehal.

Harold sealed her third clean sheet with a tough save just before the final whistle, denying UNBC’s Sidney Roy off a corner kick.

“The first half didn’t go so great, but we pulled it together in the second and were able to play for each other,” Nekic said. “In the second the strikers were showing more and demanding the ball, and in the midfield we were able to switch it up a little.”

Giesbrecht felt that the energy his team received off the bench after halftime from rookies Sandhu, Meghan Rose and Raman Bachra was pivotal to the second-half surge.

“UNBC is a much-improved team and they’re very well-organized,” Giesbrecht said. “They possessed the ball really well from the back. We made a few adjustments at the half and talked about not letting them into our midfield, and the girls did a great job . . . In the second half, we were much better.”

The Cascades return home next weekend, hosting the Thompson Rivers WolfPack on Friday and the UBC Okanagan Heat on Saturday. Both games kick off at 5:30 p.m. at MRC Sports Complex, Field 4.

– with files from Rich Abney, UNBC Athletics

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