Thunder strikes thrice as Tolnai powers UBC past Calgary and into final

TORONTO, ON – If you turned on the UBC Thunderbirds vs Calgary Dinos game even two minutes late on Friday night, you would have missed the winning goal. UBC, the number one ranked team in U SPORTS, took the lead in the second minute through Katalin Tolnai, and never looked back. 

Leading the Thunderbirds’ attacking line, Tolnai scored three goals before the 18th minute, while Canada West all-time regular season leading scorer Daniele Steer drove home a penalty kick in the 20th. 

From the quarter-mark of the match, the Thunderbirds were already looking towards Saturday’s final. 

Tolnai’s opening goal was the personification of the Thunderbirds in 2022; attack early and don’t look back. The Hungarian-Canadian forward, who launched into the Canada West season after winning the League 1 BC golden boot, deceived her Caley Leaskdefender with a stepover before striking from outside the box to beat Calgary goalkeeper Caley Leask.

Within minutes, she linked up with Nisa Reehal to make it 2-0 before settling a pinpoint pass from Sophia Ferriera and finishing on a second touch for the 2-0 lead in the 18th minute. 

“Overall, we wanted to get on the front foot,” head coach Jesse Symons said of his team’s fast start to Thunderbirds Athletics. “I thought the first 20 minutes was a tidal wave, and honestly, overall, it was fantastic. The finishes, and we had a couple of other chances too, which was great to see. Full credit for the way we started, then we just finished the game out.”

After going 4-0 up, the Dinos began to settle into their attacking rhythms, as Jayden Berg put a shot off the bar in the 41st minute, yet the chances weren’t enough to avoid the 4-0 deficit heading into halftime. 

While the second half was more of an even game between two top sides in U SPORTS, the UBC Thunderbirds saw out the victory, with goalkeeper Sarah Johns only forced to make one save. 

Additionally, Symons subbed off key players Tolnai and Steer midway through the second half, giving their legs some respite ahead of the Canada West gold medal match against their rival TWU Spartans. 

(UBC Thunderbirds)

It was 2016, the last time the UBC Thunderbirds lifted the Canada West title, and now with a spot at the U SPORTS National Championship clinched, they’ll look for a trophy on Saturday afternoon. 

“The win feels great; it’s been something we’ve looked forward to all year,” Tolnai said post-match. “It’s nice to get it done and off the shoulders, and [we’re] onto the next game.”

Meanwhile, the Dinos U SPORTS dreams are not over yet, with a bronze meda match against the TRU Wolfpack set for Saturday, with the winner taking the final berth at next weekend’s tournament in Quebec City, QC. 

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