QUÉBEC CITY, QC – Walking out onto the pitch at TELUS-UL Stadium, neither the TWU Spartans nor Calgary Dinos wanted to be playing Friday morning.
After identical 1-0 losses to the uOttawa Gee-Gees and Montreal Carabins, the two Canada West sides matched up in the consolation semifinal, looking for a spot in a 5th place match, either against fellow Canada West foe UBC or OUA, the runner-up York Lions.
For the TWU Spartans, it took the full 90 minutes and potentially a lengthy injury as they defeated the Calgary Dinos 2-1 to earn another game at nationals and a final sendoff match for their seniors.
“It’s a character game, and I thought both teams showed up and had a lot of spice and commitment,” Spartans head coach Graham Roxburgh told 49 Sports. “It’s not a game you want to play in, but one of the things about TWU is our team culture, and that means that even though we’re not playing for a medal, we can still play for each other; I couldn’t be more proud.”
The Dinos opened the scoring quickly through Jayden Berg, as she snuck past TWU centreback Jessica Vance and poked the ball away from Hannah Miller, who came out too early from goal, leaving Berg an empty net finish.
While the first half crawled through the play, the pace picked up in the second, as the Spartans found an equalizer in the 58th minute through Holland Stiel, as she snuck in behind Calgary’s Maddy Murray to finish off a cross, tying the game.
Moments later, as star defender Tilly James worked her way past a defender, she planted her foot oddly, leaving her knee buckling in ways it shouldn’t and forcing her off the pitch. As teammates carried her off the pitch, It was clear that the injury wasn’t positive.
Yet, with one of their core players out, the Spartans continued pushing to the final moments. Sierra Halldorso fired a long free kick a shot that Calgary’s Casey Leask bobbled, leaving Vance to head home, putting the Spartans up 1-0 in the 91st minute.
“I think she’s probably the most unsung player in Canada,” Roxburgh said of Vance, “She’s ridiculously good, and I’m proud for her because she defends and deals with desperate moments and to be on the end of a winning goal is special to her, and you can see the elation of our group because she means so much.”
With the loss, the season ends for the Calgary Dinos as they say goodbye to their seniors, head back west, and look towards next season, where they’ll hope to build on their Canada West bronze medal from 2022.
Cover photo: Yan Doublet/U SPORTS