After playing a pair of doubleheaders together last week, the University of the Fraser Valley soccer teams’ paths diverge this coming weekend.
The Cascades women are at home to face a pair of Prairie Division foes in the Mount Royal Cougars and Alberta Pandas. The UFV men’s squad, meanwhile, hits the road, albeit staying relatively close to home as they visit the UBC Thunderbirds and the Victoria Vikes.
WSOC: Cascades fighting for playoff berth, seeking points vs. Alberta schools
Friday, Oct. 12: Cascades (3-5-2, 5th in Pacific Division) vs. Mount Royal Cougars (5-3-2, 3rd in Pacific Division), 5:30 p.m.
Sunday, Oct. 7: Cascades vs. No. 9 Alberta Pandas (8-0-2, 2nd in Prairie Division), 5:30 p.m.
MRC Sports Complex / Field 4
This weekend’s games mark the final home dates of the season for the Cascades women’s squad. And they need make full use of home field advantage – they’re currently in fifth place in the Pacific Division, seeking to nail down one of six playoff berths.
Standing in their way this weekend are two playoff-bound opponents from the Prairie Division. Mount Royal has had a solid campaign and currently holds down third place in the division, while the Pandas are undefeated and own the No. 9 spot in the U SPORTS national rankings.
“Our opponents are tough, but that’s what Canada West women’s soccer is – it’s not meant to be easy,” noted Cascades head coach Rob Giesbrecht, whose team’s character shone through in a 3-2 loss to No. 3-ranked Trinity Western last Sunday.
“Mount Royal is having a good season – they’re getting results, and we need to make sure we carry the same intensity we had last week into this week, and execute in the attacking third and limit their opportunities. Alberta is a perennial power – they’ve had a fantastic season, and they have many weapons we need to make sure we’re aware of.”
Players to watch: Saturday is Senior Night for a pair of players who have spent five years with the Cascades women’s soccer program. Left back Amber Korner and midfielder Avneet Bhullar have been part of some of the greatest moments in team history, most notably contributing to the 2014 squad which won a Canada West silver medal and went on to finish fourth at nationals. They will be honoured in a pregame ceremony. As for the visiting teams, both boast top-five defensive records in Canada West, and both feature outstanding defenders. The Cougars have gotten outstanding contributions from third-year Quinn Hardstaff, who leads a backline that has surrendered just 10 goals in 10 games. The Pandas are even stingier, having surrendered just three goals in 10 games behind a defensive corps featuring sophomore Cara Lang.
MSOC: Cascades look to get back on winning track vs. T-Birds, Vikes
Friday, Oct. 12: Cascades (6-4-1, 3rd in Pacific Division) at No. 1 UBC Thunderbirds (10-0-2, 1st in Pacific Division), 6:30 p.m.
Sunday, Oct. 7: Cascades at Victoria Vikes (3-6-3, 5th in Pacific Division), 7:15 p.m.
The Cascades, coming off their first back-to-back losses of the season vs. Trinity Western, will look to rebound on the road.
Friday’s opponent, UBC, is the freshly minted U SPORTS No. 1-ranked team. But the UFV side can draw confidence from the fact they’re one of just two teams to take points off the T-Birds, tying them 1-1 in Abbotsford on Aug. 31.
The Vikes, meanwhile, have a sense of urgency about them – they’re currently on the wrong side of the playoff bubble, sitting fifth in the Pacific when only four teams get into the post-season. The Cascades own a home win over UVic this season, by a score of 4-0 on Sept. 2.
“We’ve got to go back to basics,” UFV head coach Tom Lowndes said. “I didn’t think we deserved to lose both games last weekend, but it happened. On Friday, we play at team that’s on fire, scoring a ton of goals (UBC has a Canada West-leading 36 goals in 12 games). We’ll have to be defensively sound, organized, disciplined, look to frustrate them, and then look to cause them problems going forward when we attack as well. Saturday will present a different challenge. UVic are fighting for their playoff lives, and it’ll be up to us to go to a difficult venue get a positive result.”
Players to watch: Among Lowndes’s deep crop of freshmen, Trevor Zanatta has been a revelation. The Coquitlam, B.C. product been a rock-solid defensive presence as a holding midfielder, and chipped in with his first career Canada West goal back on Sept. 16 at Alberta. He and his Cascades teammates will look to contain reigning Canada West men’s athlete of the week Kristian Yli-Hietanen of the UBC T-Birds. Yli-Hietanen’s eight goals on the season are tied for third-most in Canada West – four back of leader Gurmaan Jhaj of UFV – and seven of his strikes have come in the last three games alone. The Vikes boast an eight-goal scorer of their own in forward Matteo Ventura, and he’s also in fine form. Ventura notched a goal and an assist in his last outing – a 3-2 loss to UBC.