Canada West playoff race offering thrills ahead of final weekend

VANCOUVER, BC – The U SPORTS Canada West women’s soccer playoff races are only heating up as the air gets a bit cooler across Canada’s westernmost provinces. 

Although several schools are coming off their fall reading weeks, the season has yet to take a rest on the field as teams jockey for final playoff positions on the final weekend of the season.

Here’s a quick look at where things stand heading into the weekend of Oct. 12 – Oct. 14. 

The top five in each division make the cut for this year’s playoffs. No. 4 then plays No. 5 in a play-in game before the winner of that goes on to play No. 1 in the cross-over division. No. 2 then plays No. 3, also crossing over.


Pacific Division

Katalin Tolnai (UBC Thunderbirds Athletics)

The Pacific Division of U SPORTS Canada West women’s soccer holds some of the top contenders for the 2023 U SPORTS Women’s Soccer Champion, led by none other than perennial Canada West favourites, the UBC Thunderbirds. 

UBC enters the final weekend without too much weight on their shoulders, having locked up the division’s top spot a week prior with a pair of 6-0 wins against the UNBC Timberwolves. Led by the play of senior forward Katalin Tolnai, third-year defender Sophia Ferreira, and rookie centreback Sarah Rollins, the Thunderbirds will want to head into the playoffs in top form as they finish their schedule against the TRU Wolfpack and UBCO Heat. 

Meanwhile, Greater Vancouver foes, the TWU Spartans, have also clinched their playoff spot and appear to be securely in second place as well, a position that would see them host a Prairie team in the first round of the playoffs. That third seed team would be the Calgary Dinos for now, but that is far from secure. TWU wraps up their regular season campaign with matches against the MRU Cougars and Victoria Vikes. 

UBCO clinched, and everyone but UNBC is looking for playoffs

After the top two seeds, the Pacific Division gets a lot more interesting. On paper, only one team, the UNBC Timberwolves, is eliminated. However, the Heat have clinched a playoff spot. 

Stefanie Young (Will Thompson/UBCO Heat)

Led by Canada West Golden Boot leader Stefanie Young, the UBCO Heat hold onto the third spot at the moment but sit on 23 points with two matches remaining. Meanwhile, the fourth-place Victoria Vikes are only one game behind, sitting on 20 points and two games remaining. 

All of that is complicated by the fact that the UFV Cascades could win their final two games, which, if Victoria and UBCO both lose twice, would give UFV the third seed heading into the postseason. 

Indeed, it’s a critical two weeks to end the season, as avoiding the 4v5 play-in game is critical for any team hoping to make a deep playoff run. 

UBCO faces a final weekend of UNBC, a likely win for them, and UBC, a potential draw. To lock up the third seed before the final match, the Kelowna-based school must win or get a draw against UNBC and have both UFV and Victoria drop points. 

UBCO holds the tiebreaker against Victoria, should it come down to that. 

For Victoria to work their way into the third spot and avoid the play-in game, they would need wins against UFV and TWU while also leaning on dropped points by UBCO in their final two contests. 

Overall, the most crucial match of the weekend is Victoria’s Friday night clash with the Cascades. A draw in that match clinches Victoria’s playoff spot while putting the post-season hopes down to the final day for UFV. If either team wins, they clinch a playoff spot. 

(UFV Cascades Athletics)

For the Cascades, the weekend comes with the critical Victoria match, where a win would clinch their spot. However, the season could come down to their final match against the MRU Cougars, which could prove to be effectively a play-in for the play-in. 

Should MRU defeat TWU on Friday and UFV not win at Victoria, the final clash of the season between those two sides would decide the final playoff spot. For MRU, the most likely required weekend for playoffs sits between two wins or a win and a draw. 

Despite entering the final weekend as the second-to-last team in the division, the TRU Wolfpack could return to the playoffs if they win both their matches against top-ranked UBC and UNBC. However, that appears unlikely. 

It’s an exciting time for the Pacific Division, and it’s coming down to the final weekend for nearly every program — what more could a footy fan ask for. 

Prairie Division

The U SPORTS Canada West Prairie Division has had quite the season, and every playoff position comes down to the campaign’s final weekend, with some top teams missing key contributors. 

Heading into the final two games for each team, the MacEwan Griffins, Saskatchewan Huskies, and Calgary Dinos have clinched playoff spots, while the Alberta Pandas and Manitoba Bisons head into the final week as the No. 4 and No. 5 teams, looking to secure berths. 

After a record-breaking and electrifying start to the season for Grace Mwasalla and the MacEwan Griffins, the team has had to figure things out in her absence, as she picked up a season-ending injury in late September. 

Still, they enter the final weekend as the team most likely to lock up the division’s top spot, sitting on 28 points with two games to go against the Calgary Dinos and Lethbridge Pronghorns, with a victory in either game clinching the top seed on their own accord. At the same time, they could even finish first with two losses, should the Saskatchewan Huskies lose twice and Calgary lose on the final day. 

Rachel Barlow (Calgary Dinos Athletics)

At this point, it’s all but certain that MacEwan will claim the top spot and host the play-in winner from the Pacific Division.

The final weekend brings a heated race for second place in the Prairie Division, with a first-round home match on the line for whoever comes out on top. Saskatchewan and Calgary both enter the weekend jockeying for that spot. 

The Huskies hold the advantage in their strength of schedule, facing a last-place and eliminated Winnipeg Wesmen side while also clashing with an inconsistent Manitoba Bisons. Meanwhile, the Dinos face off with No. 1 MacEwan and Alberta. 

The favourite to take the No. 2 spot is undoubtedly Saskatchewan, given the opponents. However, Calgary only needs to overturn a one-point deficit and the tiebreaker – an achievable task for head coach Diego Raposo’s group. 

Play-in spots up for grabs 

While two teams are eliminated, the Wesmen and Pronghorns, there are three teams, all within five points of each other, looking for the two spots in the play-in match. 

(University of Alberta Athletics)

The Alberta Pandas hold the upper hand in the race, sitting on 15 points with matches against Lethbridge and Calgary to go, while Manitoba currently sits in the fifth and final position on 12 points, with games against the Regina Cougars and Saskatchewan on the docket. 

Friday night’s clash between Manitoba and Regina will likely award the final playoff spot, as Alberta is favoured to at least draw, if not win, against Lethbridge. Should Regina and Manitoba draw, the race would come down to the final day. 

Overall, it’s a thrilling time of year for Canada West and U SPORTS soccer.

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