VANCOUVER, BC – A picturesque Canada West campaign got its dream end for the UBC Thunderbirds women’s soccer team, as they triumphed 2-1 over rivals Trinity Western Spartans in the CanWest finals.
It was a quick start for the Thunderbirds as in the 5th minute, Sophia Ferreira pinged a long ball forwards for Katalin Tolnai to run onto. The midfielder cooly slotted it past Spartan keeper Hannah Miller to give the Thunderbirds the early 1-0 lead.
The Spartans managed to calm their early nerves and settle into the game, finding a rhythm and the possession advantage along with it. However, TWU never managed to test UBC’s Sarah Johns, which proved costly. In the 26th minute, Sophie Damian would double the T-Bird lead, banging home the tally while under pressure.
UBC continued to apply pressure through the rest of the first half, buoyed by their early two tallies. It felt as if the women in blue and gold were ready to put this game to rest in the first 45 minutes, putting five shots in total on net compared to Trinity Western’s two. However, UBC would head into the break with the 2-0 lead to show for their efforts.
The second half began with ferocious intensity. The Spartans came out ready to claw themselves back into the championship game, while the Thunderbirds wanted to put the dagger in TWU’s hopes. A back-and-forth start soon gave way to the Spartan’s first goal of the night. After a corner delivery found a Spartan at the back post, Sierra Halldorson would redirect the ball into the back of the net, cutting the lead in half.
However, UBC quite nearly responded right after. An excellent Nisa Reehal strike was parried away by Miller, keeping the Spartans within striking distance. Reehal would get another chance in the final 10 minutes, but excellent defending kept her from converting her opportunity.
The Spartans did their best, but their comeback efforts fell short with the whistle sounding three times at the end of the game. UBC claimed their 16th Canada West title, but surprisingly their first since 2016. With an experienced group that boasts some of the greatest talent of all time in the conference, the Thunderbirds will be looking to claim another national crown, with their last title coming in 2019.
“For me, the players through and through worked so hard for this,” head coach Jesse Symons said post-match. “They came and competed every game and we got the best out of every team every game. We were able to come out on top and full credit to them, they were phenomenal this game. Trinity battled so hard against us and made it tight. We had to hold on and that’s what this conference is about. Every game is so tight and we found a way. We started off so well, which we’ve been doing all season, so it was great to see that to start the game today too.”
As for the Spartans, they too have earned qualification to the U SPORTS national championships, having clinched it with their win in the semi-finals. TWU will be understandably disappointed to have lost in the championship game, but have an opportunity to go deep at nationals with a very talented group. Perhaps they could even get revenge on the Thunderbirds, should the seedings place them on a collision course.
“Again, we were the makers of our own problems,” Spartans head coach Graham Roxburgh said after the match to UBC Athletics. “It’s just frustrating. They’re a good team, you give them a sniff and they’re going to score. The difference for me was they got their three or four chances and buried two, we had three or four good balls into the box in the first half but not enough hunger, not enough fight to keep the ball alive because we generated enough to score. Second half I said, girls, we didn’t play well, we didn’t give a good account of ourselves. All you’ve got to do now is go and do that and if you do that the game is going to change and it did.”
UBC and TWU will be joined by the Calgary Dinos in Quebec City, having won the bronze medal game earlier in the day. It’ll be a quick turnaround for all these teams, immediately shifting focus to the biggest collegiate soccer tournament of the year.
The women’s soccer U SPORTS national championships will kick off in Quebec City on Nov. 10th, running until the 13th.