An offensive outburst and a highlight-reel save powered the University of the Fraser Valley men’s soccer team to a 3-0 home victory over the UBC Okanagan Heat on Saturday evening.
The Cascades, coming off a 1-0 win over the Thompson Rivers WolfPack in their conference opener on Friday, got goals from Gurmaan Jhaj, Justin Sekhon and Nate Trampleasure to complete a six-point weekend at their new home pitch, MRC Sports Complex.
Goalkeeper David Hicks ensured the Cascades (2-0-0) would wrap up the weekend without conceding a goal, denying UBCO’s Hamish Walde on a penalty kick in the 65th minute.
“I was really happy with the performance,” UFV head coach Tom Lowndes said. “We challenged them to come out with the same intensity and desire and work rate as they did last night, and I think they did.
“In the first half, we had a few chances and could have had a few more goals than we did. In the second half, we knew they were going to come at us, and we had to match the battle. We scored some fantastic goals, and going forward on the counterattack, I thought at times we looked rampant and we could have scored a few more. Full credit to the boys – they bought into the shape. Just a really good overall team performance.”
UBCO (1-2-1) was coming off a strong opening weekend which saw them earn four of a possible six points at home against the UBC Thunderbirds and UVic Vikes, who were ranked No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in the Canada West preseason coaches poll. But the Heat’s road swing through the Fraser Valley wasn’t fruitful – the loss to UFV came on the heels of a 1-0 defeat to the Trinity Western Spartans on Friday in Langley.
Jhaj opened the scoring in the 19th minute on a free kick from just outside the Heat’s 18-yard box. He fired a low shot which found the bottom left corner, just out of the reach of UBCO keeper Christopher Cuthill.
Daniel Davidson, UFV’s goal-scorer in Friday’s win, had a golden opportunity to double the lead in the 56th minute. He came streaking down the right side to take a pass from Connor MacMillan, but his rising shot hammered the post.
Davidson was undeterred, and just over six minutes later, he threaded a long pass through the Heat defence to Justin Sekhon, who ran onto it and unleashed a shot into the bottom left corner.
Shortly thereafter, the Heat were poised to get on the scoreboard after a Cascades foul in the box. But Hicks was up to the task – he ranged to his right to get his hands on Walde’s attempt from the spot.
“2-0 is a dangerous lead, and we let them back in on a bit of sloppy play off a thrown-in and a rash challenge,” Lowndes said. “If that goal goes in, they get confidence and come back at us, and we’re in a little bit of trouble. Full credit – fantastic save, and it really allowed us to kick on and get that third goal, and really take control of the game.”
Hicks said he felt that Walde, being right-footed, would try to come across his body and aim for the bottom corner.
“I just went with my gut, and it worked out for me,” he said. “It’s always nice to get the PK save, but at the end of the day, the three points is what matters.”
Three minutes after Hicks’s big stop, UFV put the game away when MacMillan scampered into the box and slipped a pass to Trampleasure on his left. The rookie forward made no mistake, slotting the ball home for his first goal in Canada West play.
The Cascades ended up out-shooting the Heat 17-8, including 12-6 in the second half.
Next weekend, UFV hits the road to take on Victoria on Friday and UBC on Saturday.