Women’s Soccer: Vikes edge Cascades 1-0 on opening night

The University of the Fraser Valley women’s soccer team opened the 2019 Canada West campaign with a tough 1-0 road loss to the Victoria Vikes.

In an evenly played contest – each team registered 10 shots – UVic rookie Nikki Virk’s goal in the 72nd minute was the difference.

The Cascades (0-1-0) get back after it on Saturday as they visit the UBC Thunderbirds (6:30 p.m., CanadaWest.tv).

“It’s just frustrating, because I loved the fight we put into it,” UFV bench boss Rob Giesbrecht said afterward. “We should have at least come out of here with a tie.

“I thought we started both halves poorly, and we showed a bit of youth at that point – we let them come at us a little bit too much. But as each half wore on, I thought we became the better team. We just need to do a better job generating chances.”

Virk made an early impression with a chance in close, but her shot got gobbled up by Cascades keeper Joven Sandhu for one of her six first-half saves.

UFV’s best opportunity in the first half came off the boot of captain Brittney Zacharuk, but Vikes fifth-year goalkeeper Puck Louwes leaped and deflected it out of play.

The Cascades manufactured a bushel of corners after the break – Zacharuk launched eight into the UVic box over the final 45 minutes, part of a 9-5 edge on the night. But the visitors were unable to get on the end of any of them in a meaningful way.

Virk notched what turned out to be the game-winner, taking advantage of a UFV turnover and launching a shot from 25 yards out that carried over Sandhu, who had no chance on the play.

The Cascades’ player of the game was forward Simi Lehal, who was “a beast”, according to Giesbrecht, holding up the ball. UFV also got strong contributions off the bench from rookie speedster Katie Lampen and sophomore midfielder Kate Fisher.

Men’s Soccer: Sidhu’s second-half strike earns Cascades a draw with Heat

Of the players wearing the green-and-white of the UFV Cascades on Friday evening, Sahib Sidhu was a rather unlikely candidate to come through with a goal.

The hulking 6’3” Surrey, B.C. product, after all, plays centre back and has devoted his career to keeping goals out of the Cascades’ net rather than scoring them. And over the course of 21 previous Canada West games, the sophomore had mustered just three shots on goal, none of which found the back of the net.

Yet in the 72nd minute, there he was, booting home a rising shot from six yards out to lift the Cascades to a 1-1 draw with the UBC Okanagan Heat at MRC Sports Complex.

“I’ve never felt better, honestly,” Sidhu enthused afterward. “I’ve always defended goals. But when you score one to tie the game for the team – anything for the team.

“I might have been six yards out, but it tied the game, that’s what matters,” he added with a chuckle. “It’s probably one of the biggest moments in my two years here.”

The Cascades (1-2-2) are back in action on Saturday, hosting the Thompson Rivers WolfPack (7 p.m., MRC Sports Complex, CanadaWest.tv).

Both teams had good looks in the early going on Friday off set pieces. Just over a minute in, Sidhu got his head on the end of Gurmaan Jhaj’s free kick, but nodded the ball right at UBCO keeper Nicholas Reitsma.

Shortly thereafter, the Heat’s Spencer Young had a free kick in Cascades territory, and he sent a ball to the far post where Sam McDonald was all by himself, but he directed his shot wide of the post.

The Heat would take over the proceedings for the balance of the first half, maintaining possession for long stretches and outshooting UFV 8-2. The visitors opened the scoring on a dizzying passing sequence in the 31st minute, weaving their way through the UFV defence before Luke Warkentin’s final pass found McDonald alone in front of Cascades keeper Ethan Duggan for the close-range finish.

UFV was much better in the second half, outshooting the Heat 7-2 over the final 45 minutes.

They were rewarded in the 72nd. On a scramble off a long throw-in from Atle Koellmel, Manpal Brar headed the ball forward and Gurmaan Jhaj claimed possession in a crowd of UBCO defenders. Moving to his left, he unleashed a shot that was blocked by the Heat’s Christian Taylor, and Sidhu was johnny-on-the-spot to fire the rebound into the top corner.

“We’ve joked a few times this season – how many games will it take for him to score off a set piece?” Lowndes said with a chuckle. “But you know what, credit to him. He takes those jokes well, and has an I’ll-prove-you-wrong attitude. Right place, right time with a good finish, and it was nice to see him get rewarded.”

The game was a proverbial tale of two halves, and Lowndes was heartened to see how his team responded after a rough start.

“To say we weren’t good (in the first half) is sugar-coating it a bit – we were awful,” he noted. “It was one of the worst halves we’ve played in a long, long time. But you know, sometimes that’s going to happen, and it’s about how you adjust and how you get back to who you are.

“We talked about doing a few things differently at halftime. We set the tempo and pace a lot higher second half, and kind of played the way we wanted to play. . . . Really happy with the second half, and that’s something we need to build off going into tomorrow.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

nineteen − 1 =

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.