TORONTO, ON – Wasn’t that nice? While U SPORTS soccer got underway on the weekend of Sept. 4 with a pair of women’s games in Canada West, the craziness of the 53 schools playing for a national title got underway this week with the RSEQ and AUS joining Canada West in action.
With men’s and women’s soccer highlighting the week in U SPORTS, 49 Sports introduces “The Kickabout,” a look around the top stories of U SPORTS Men’s and Women’s soccer, including the debut of the Canucks at School Players of the Week.
MEN: A tighter conference than expected?
Ahead of the Canada West men’s soccer season, 49’s writers and Canada West coaches pegged the UBC Thunderbirds to be an out-and-out powerhouse in 2021. However, after the first two games, that may not be the case.
The UBC Thunderbirds and Thompson Rivers Wolfpack drew their first two games of the season 1-1, and although the T-Birds held the lead for over an hour in the second match, the late tying goal is all that matters results-wise.
Both teams had Canadian Premier League connections, with UBC’s Jackson Farmer, Chris Lee, Daniel Kaiser, Markus Kaiser, Thomas Gardner and Victory Shumbusho in the matchday squad, while TRU boasted defender Jan Pirretas Glasmacher, a Pacific FC draft pick.
While headline striker James Fraser did not get on the scoresheet, he tested the UBC defence over the two matches and opened up space for Dylan Hooper and Mikkel Rosenlund to find goals, including the 90th-minute point-clincher in the second match.
T-Birds Head Coach Mike Mosher handed first-year forward Sebastian Dziwkowski a start in the second match of the weekend, and he picked up a goal within his first 30 minutes of U SPORTS action. Victory Shumbusho, alongside Dzikowski, will be a pairing to watch for the rest of the year.
Although the pair of draws are underwhelming for a highlight-touted UBC side, Mosher has guided teams through more challenging situations and will make adjustments with a talented group. Nevertheless, the TRU Wolfpack showed that UBC is beatable on any day, potentially tightening the conference predictions.
MEN: A storming Saturday comeback led by Ritter-West
The UVIC Vikes are atop the Canada West standings, and they only had to win one game to do it — no other team in Canada West came away with a victory on the weekend. While braces are often left for pre-teens, they were the week’s theme for the Vikes, who had two players score a brace in as many matches.
On Sept. 10, the Vikes hosted 2,500+ fans in the BC capital, as Jose Sagaste scored a brace to put the home side up 2-0 before the 65th minute. UNBC’s Abou Cisse cut the lead in half in the final five minutes, but the Vikes held on and had double the shots by night’s end.
The second match between the two BC schools was the best match in U SPORTS, as the UVIC Vikes clawed their way back from being 2-0 down at halftime. Local freshman Harrison Ritter-West scored a brace within seven minutes to draw the game level, with both goals showcasing his strength and shooting from long-range.
Victoria nearly won the match late when Evan Libke’s header hit the post in the 88th minute, but a draw was as best as they could do. With a 1-0-1 record, the Vikes sit atop the Canada West BC division standings with four points and are the only team with a win in their pocket.
CANUCKS AT SCHOOL CANWEST PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Harrison Ritter-West (UVIC)
WOMEN: UBC STEERing in the right direction
“No,” and a chuckle, that was UBC Thunderbirds Head Coach Jesse Symons’ response to the question of whether his T-Birds team was any lesser of a side than the team that won the 2019 U SPORTS Championship when asked before the season.
Two games in and six points in their back pocket, and it looks as though Symons might just be right. The T-Birds went into Kamloops and took all six points against the Thompson Rivers Wolfpack and played the Wolfpack off the park in the second match.
Danielle Steer scored four goals in two matches, as the T-Birds won 2-0 and 3-0 over TRU. The Wolfpack are an extremely young team in 2021, and Steer’s experience having three years under her belt proved to be the difference. On the T-Birds, first years Aislin Phillips and Sophia Ferrieria showed well in the defensive midfield and proved to be integral transition pieces in the T-Birds attack.
While the UBC men may have underwhelmed this weekend, the defending 2019 National Champions look like the real deal.
WOMEN: UBCO has some fight to them
Expectations were low on UBC Okanagan to start this season. Still, after a spirited comeback in their first match against the highly-favoured Trinity Western Spartans, the Heat could surprise in 2021.
Kelowna BC’s Stefanie Young scored in the 59th and 69th minute to bring the Heat within one after falling behind 3-0, but could not complete her hat-trick to claim a point for UBCO. With the fightback and some jaw-dropping saves from goalkeeper Molly Race against a premier TWU team, the Heat are in good form heading into their home openers on Week 2.
The Spartans looked a little rusty on the other side of the match but still showed their qualities as they won 3-2 and 2-0 over the visiting Heat. In both games, second-year midfielder Maddie Melnychuk tormented the UBCO defence, picking up a pair of goals to start her season.
Spartans Head Coach Graham Roxburgh was absent for the second match of the weekend, leaving assistant coach Rob Giesbrecht to manage the Spartans on a rainy Langley day.
While the defensive fragility in the first game could pose worries, it was not something Giesbrecht had in mind, saying, “Graham and I weren’t concerned with how the girls would do. I think the team could have relaxed a little more off the bat as they seemed tense, so we just needed to be more aggressive and take advantage of our chances in the first half.”
CANUCKS AT SCHOOL CANWEST PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Danielle Steer (UBC)
LAST KICK: Although the season is still young, the Calgary Dinos clearly have national championship ambitions once again. Led by fifth-year forward Montana Leonard, U of C is the only team to have won three games, and they don’t look as they will stop. Only UBC is above them in most statistical categories, but the two won’t face each other until the post-season with the COVID-19 formatted scheduled.
UBC 1-1 TRU
UBC 1-1 TRU
UNBC 1-2 UVIC
UNBC 2-2 UVIC
UBCO 1-1 TWU
UBCO 0-0 TWU
UBC 2-0 TRU
UBCO 2-3 TWU
UNBC 1-3 UVIC
REGINA 1-3 MANITOBA
USASK 0-0 WINNIPEG
CALGARY 2-1 ALBERTA
LETHBRIDGE 1-3 MRU
UBCO 0-2 TWU
UNBC 0-5 UVIC
REGINA 1-0 MANITOBA
UBC 3-0 TRU
COVER PHOTO: UVIC VIKES