VANCOUVER, BC – The 2021 Canada West soccer campaign kicked off in a big way, with teams in action from coast to coast. The UBC Thunderbirds took to the pitch, with the women’s and men’s teams in action for the first game of their seasons.
Both teams traveled up to Kamloops to take on the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack, in the first of a doubleheader. Here’s how the first day of the season went for them.
UBC Women’s Emphatic Win
It was the women’s team that kicked off first at 5 pm on a beautiful evening at Hillside Stadium. The reigning Canada West and national champions rolled into Kamloops looking to begin a delayed title defense campaign against a young WolfPack side.
It was all Thunderbirds in the first half. The women in blue and gold dominated possession early, not letting TRU out of their own half for the better part of the first 20 minutes. Their best chance came in the 12th minute as Sophie Damian pounced on a broken play, sending a looping shot over the keeper only to be denied by the crossbar.
Even after, the T-Birds continued to swing crosses in, generating chance after chance. However, the WolfPack defense held out strong, even managing to create a couple of opportunities on the counterattack. Emily Moore was called upon for a fine save in the 42nd, pushing TRU’s Maria Gelowitz’s shot against the post. It was even heading into halftime, scoreless between the two sides.
Coming out of the half it was much of the same, the UBC women dominating possession and chances. However, it was in the second half that they broke through. Danielle Steer, the 4th year veteran, showed off her nose for the net as WolfPack keeper Danielle Robertson misplayed a free-kick. The striker slotted home the opener in the 63rd to give UBC the lead.
It would only be eight minutes later when Steer completed her brace, taking a lovely feed from Katalin Tolnai and potting in the insurance marker. With that, UBC saw out the match to claim a 2-0 win in their first match of the season. The women finished with 27 shots, 13 of them on target, while Moore only needed to make one save all night.
While Steer grabbed the headlines, I want to shout out Nisa Reehal. She was all over the pitch tonight, a big part of the T-Birds retaining possession so well and coming oh so close to scoring herself. It was a team effort that guided the Thunderbirds tonight, and they’ll be looking for more of the same tomorrow against the very same team.
UBC Men Drop Points
The defending Canada West champs followed up right after the first game concluded, with the men’s team looking to replicate the success that the women’s team had.
In similar fashion, it was the Thunderbirds that controlled the tempo early, dictating the pace and being optimistic at goal. They won the lion’s share of corners and free-kicks, creating most of their chances there.
With two dead-ball specialists in Tommy Gardner and Chris Lee, it was no wonder that the first goal came off of a corner. Lee whipped in a beautiful delivery that Jackson Farmer directed into the net, putting the T-Birds up in the 26th minute.
The game became much more back and forth, the WolfPack finding their legs towards the end of the half. UBC went in holding a narrow lead, hoping to add insurance in the second half.
As the teams returned to the pitch, it quickly became apparent that chances from free play would be few and far between. 2019 top goalscorer Victory Shumbusho had himself a few chances, but the normally prolific striker had himself a rare off game tonight.
Unfortunately, the lack of criticalness from the Thunderbirds cost them as in the 70th, Dylan Hooper headed a free-kick delivery past a sprawling Bennett McKay, leveling the match.
Chris Lee stood out today for me, making excellent runs along the left side of the pitch, overlapping and activating at the perfect times. Of course, he found himself on the scoresheet with his dead-ball abilities, but he’ll be looking to generate a lot more chances from open play.
Another player I want to shout out is Tommy Gardiner. While he didn’t appear on the score sheet, the first-overall-pick from this past CPL draft really showed why he deserved that spot. Gardiner was a hound on the ball, keeping possession no matter how many players were thrown his way. As well, the midfielder delivered crisp excellent passes, a large reason why UBC was able to retain possession so well.
The teams would trade chances before the final whistle blew. UBC will be understandably disappointed with this result, considering they heavily out-chanced TRU throughout the large portion of the game. They’ll be looking to make things right tomorrow at 5 pm when they return to Hillside Stadium for the second match of the doubleheader.