Fraser Valley (Dan Kinvig) – Men’s Soccer: Spiess, Cascades punch playoff ticket in dramatic fashion on final night of regular season

Facing two do-or-die games this weekend with a playoff berth in the balance, the University of the Fraser Valley men’s soccer team has emerged – still alive and kicking.

Tobias Spiess was the hero on Saturday night in Kelowna, scoring both Cascade goals as the UFV side edged the UBC Okanagan Heat 2-1.

Based on out-of-town results, with Thompson Rivers and UBC winning earlier in the evening, the Cascades – coming off a thrilling 1-0 victory over the Heat on Friday – knew that nothing less than a win in their regular-season finale would get them into the post-season. A draw or a loss, and they were done.

The Heat made the Cascades sweat – first, by holding them off the scoreboard in the first half, and later, after Spiess had staked UFV to a 2-0 lead, by scoring in the 83rd minute via Owen Spicker to send Cascade heart-rates skyrocketing.

But the UFV side was able to get the job done, improving to 4-3-5 for 17 points while dropping the Heat – who had been eliminated from playoff contention with Friday’s loss – to 2-6-4.

The Cascades clinched their post-season berth at the expense of the Trinity Western Spartans (3-3-6, 15 points), who had closed out their regular-season schedule a week ago and were surely watching the scoreboard anxiously, hoping UFV would drop points on Saturday.

“Great mental toughness,” enthused Cascades head coach Tom Lowndes, whose team will find out the identity of its first-round foe on Sunday, with three CW games yet to be played.

“This group’s now undefeated in seven, and that’s something that’s kind of gone under the radar. I think we’re hitting form at the right time. To make the playoffs after we had a rough start is fantastic.

“I can’t say enough about the boys. They’re a fantastic group to be around, and I just love being around them. Their attitude and work rate is just infectious, and it’s nights like tonight that make it all worthwhile.”

The Cascades started to find their form as Saturday’s first half wore on, and came within inches of opening the scoring on the final kick of the half as Spiess headed the ball just over the bar.

Spiess, the rookie centre back from Nuremberg, Germany, was undeterred. In the 58th minute, he rose to nod home David Parfett’s free kick and allow his squad to breathe easier.

He made it 2-0 on a penalty kick in the 76th. Manpal Brar came dashing into the box from the right side and was bowled over by a UBCO defender, and the referee pointed to the spot. Spiess stepped up and sent a rising shot into the centre of the net, as Heat keeper Nicholas Reitsma dove to his left.

Spicker gave the Cascades a pre-Halloween scare in the 83rd, pouncing on the rebound off Jimmy Steel’s initial shot and poking it past UFV keeper Jackson Cowx. But the Cascades were able to see the game out from there, setting off a post-game celebration that saw Lowndes doused with the contents of the water cooler.

“Crazy,” he said with a chuckle afterward “You’d have thought we’d won Canada West. They’re buzzing.

“When we were up 2-0, we were professional in the way we played – we tried to see the game out. We let them in with a sloppy goal, but we’ve bent a bit but we haven’t broke. We stayed strong, we stayed together. The guys on the side just willing each other on was fantastic. A great mentality there that will hopefully set now, when we actually go into playoffs.”

Spiess has been sensational in his debut campaign for the Cascades, and he came through in the clutch on Saturday.

“I can’t say enough about him,” Lowndes marveled. “He’s been unlucky – he probably should have scored three or four more goals this season off set pieces. He’s come in and formed a great partnership with Sahib (Sidhu, at centre back) for us.

“The boys were excellent, just warriors. I felt we were the better team for most of the game, and had some great chances in the first half that we didn’t take. Most teams would be deflated at that, but we came out in the second half firing.”

Women’s Soccer: Cascades defeat Heat, lock up third place on Gamble’s late goal

The University of the Fraser Valley women’s soccer team came into Saturday’s action vs. the UBC Okanagan Heat with a playoff berth already secure, knowing that at least a draw would be enough to secure third place in the West Division.

They did that one better, topping the Heat 1-0 in Kelowna on Hannah Gamble’s late goal.

UFV’s sixth straight victory boosted its record to 6-4-2; the Heat (2-7-3) had been eliminated from playoff contention based on the Cascades’ 1-0 win on Friday.

The Cascades will now hit the road for the first round of the Canada West post-season. They’ll face the first-place finisher from the Central Division – either the Calgary Dinos or MacEwan Griffins, who wrap up the regular season on Sunday with a head-to-head match-up to decide the division crown.

“It’s nice to finish off strong,” UFV head coach Niko Marcina said afterward. “The game itself likely wasn’t the prettiest performance, but the fact we were able to compete right up to the final minute was a positive moment for our program. At the end of the day, we’re glad we’ve got our sixth win in a row.”

The Cascades had several chances to open the scoring in the first half, including a trio of good looks for Harneet Dadrao, who was making life difficult for the Heat’s defenders. But on all three occasions – including a breakaway in the 15th minute – UBCO keeper Molly Race was up to the task.

At the other end of the pitch, Cascades keeper Andrea Perkovic was tested on a couple of occasions – most notably, she dove to her right to deny Abigail Taneda in the 39th.

The Heat gained traction as the second half wore on, but UFV kept them mostly to the outside. In the 76th, UBCO’s Alyssa Scott sprinted into the box from the right, but her rising blast found the side netting.

In the 85th, a moment of brilliance from Gamble was the difference. Jaspreet Deol dribbled through the midfield and sent a pass toward Dadrao, who dummied it, allowing the ball to continue through to an on-rushing Gamble further out to the left. Gamble’s first-touch strike was pure, settling inside the far post beyond Race’s outstretched arms.

It was Gamble’s team-leading third goal of the season, rookie Deol notched her first career point with the assist.

“Hannah is getting a lot of confidence for us in the attacking half, and she’s building off the athleticism she can provide for our team,” Marcina said. “We tried to play her not as much today, because she gave us 94 minutes of her entire effort yesterday. But when she came in, as per normal, she provided a positive presence for our team.”

Perkovic finished with three saves for her second clean sheet of the campaign.

Women’s Vollyball: Cascades knock off Dinos in four sets

The University of the Fraser Valley women’s volleyball team continued to impress in the preseason, topping the host Calgary Dinos in exhibition tournament action on Saturday evening.

It was the second time in a week that the Cascades and Dinos had clashed, with Calgary having claimed a five-set triumph at a similar tourney in Kamloops, B.C. on Oct. 17.

The rematch went UFV’s way, by scores of 25-12, 25-19, 23-25 and 25-22.

The Cascades wrap up the Calgary tourney on Sunday morning at 9 a.m. Mountain time vs. the Regina Cougars.

“We played really steady and composed,” UFV head coach Janelle Rozema analyzed. “We scored big points, but we also really controlled our amount of unforced errors. I think we also played our best volleyball at the right points of the game. It was good timing.”

After dominating the first set, the Cascades fell behind in the second but mounted a comeback, with tough serving from rookies Zoe Arca and Cailin Bitter and fourth-year veteran Amanda Matsui helping to turn the tide. The Dinos bounced back to win the third, but the UFV squad – benefitting from a big game from right side Sadie Wilson to stretch the Calgary defence – closed it out in four.

“We were really brave from the service line and put their passers in trouble, and our defence made it difficult to score,” Rozema said, reflecting on her team’s second-set rally. “We did a really good job of keeping the ball off the ground, and turning it back into really hard balls coming back the other way.”

The Cascades are gearing up for their Canada West regular-season debut, Nov. 5-6 at UBC Okanagan.

Men’s Volleyball: Cascades fall to Griffins in tournament finale

The University of the Fraser Valley men’s volleyball team concluded its home-court preseason tournament with a three-set loss to the MacEwan Griffins on Saturday evening.

The Cascades had shown their upside on Friday, pushing perennial powerhouse UBC to five sets, but they struggled vs. the Griffins, who prevailed by set scores of 25-15, 25-20 and 25-18 at the UFV Athletic Centre.

“Tonight we worked on a few different lineup changes to give some people an opportunity,” Cascades head coach Nathan Bennett noted afterward. “MacEwan played well. I think it was a good learning experience for us mentally, to understand that no matter who is on the other side in Canada West, every team is a threat, and we have to give our best effort every opportunity we can.”

The Cascades, playing their third game in three days, rested standout left side Nimo Benne on Saturday. The match marked the squad’s final preseason tune-up against a Canada West opponent, as they ready themselves for the opening weekend of conference play, Nov. 5-6 at UBC Okanagan. Home-opening weekend is Nov. 26-27 vs. the Thompson Rivers WolfPack.

“I want to thank MacEwan, Grandon and UBC for coming to our preseason tournament, and I’m looking forward to seeing them all again in the future,” Bennett said. “We plan to make this a bi-annual event, and we’re looking forward to seeing it grow.”

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