TORONTO, ON – The TRU Wolfpack have been the late-game magicians. Whether added time or extra time, they found a way through the first and second rounds of the Canada West Playoffs. Yet, as immense winds gust through Thunderbird Stadium on Friday, the luck ran out.
In intense weather conditions, the TWU Spartans downed the Wolfpack 2-1 after 120 minutes of soccer amid a match where the wind blew the tents covering the TRU benches onto the far hill.
While the dream is still alive for the Wolfpack, their hopes of Canada West glory have blown away.
After a back-and-forth half hour, the Spartans found their breakthrough in the 32nd minute when Charis Wardrope found the back of the net before to give them a 1-0 lead, only for TRU’s Camryn Curts to level the match in the 65th minute with a forceful strike nestling into the bottom corner.
As she has done so often throughout the post-season, TRU goalkeeper Marissa Young stood on her head, stopping point-blank chances, and confidently collecting balls that ricochetted off the woodwork.
The scorecard credited Young with six saves on the night. Still, several of the shots that bounced off the post and back within her grasp were critical to TRUs defensive success, holding the heavily favoured Spartans scoreless through 30 minutes.
As the weather changed drastically in the second half, with sheets of rain, heavy winds and flying tents, the Wolfpack continued to claw their way into the game while navigating a route toward extra time.
Despite late chances and the winds at the back of the Wolfpack, the game crept into 30 minutes of extra time, wherein the second 15-minute half, rookie Holland Stiel finished off a cross, marking the winner for the Spartans.
“We knew it would be tough,” Spartans head coach Graham Roxburgh said after the match to Canada West Communications.
“We knew they were scrappy, we knew they were direct, and it’s a tough surface to play on. We knew tonight was going to be a little bit scrappy, but credit to them, they had a great chance early, I thought we settled down and started to play. Our best moments came in the first half when we actually connected passes. I thought their keeper made one or two fantastic saves, and we didn’t bury our chances.”
With the result, the Spartans advance to yet another Canada West final against the UBC Thunderbirds and book their spot at the U SPORTS Championships in Quebec City. While on the other side, the Wolfpack look to a bronze medal match against Calgary and a chance to claim the conference’s final spot at the national tournament.
“We’ve got to regroup because we’ve got another opportunity tomorrow in front of us,” Wolfpack head coach Mark Pennington told Canada West.
“It’ll be tough after 120 minutes, but I couldn’t be more proud. We showed that we can go toe to toe with a team that’s been ranked in the top two in the country at points this year. We’re super proud of them. They’ve fought tooth and nail. We got back into the game again and scored a good goal but just came up a bit short at the end.”
Initially scheduled for 11:00 am PT, the lengthy semifinal has forced the women’s matches later into the day, with the bronze medal match kicking off at 5:00 pm PT, and the Championship Final taking the nightcap at 8:00 pm PT.