The University of the Fraser Valley Cascades women’s soccer is the hottest team in Canada West’s West division and have now rolled off four straight wins after two more victories in Abbotsford on Friday (Oct. 15) and Sunday (Oct. 17).
The Cascades posted a 2-1 win over the UNBC Timberwolves on Friday and then blanked UNBC 1-0 on Sunday. The wins catapulted the club into a tie for third in the West and they now control their playoff destiny.
Friday’s game was a clutch performance by fifth-year forward Simi Lehal. With the Cascades trailing 1-0, Lehal was moved rom centre back to forward and that adjustment by head coach Niko Marcina quickly transformed the game.
Lehal tied the game up in the 47th minute and then set up Halle McCambley for what would turn out to be the winning goal in the 58th. Marcina praised his senior player following Friday.
“Simi Lehal is having an amazing year,” Marcina stated. “This is her final year, and she wanted to give it her all. She’s done so well at the back, but she’s also extremely effective up top. I’m so proud of her. She’s grown and matured into an elite-level player, as a striker and as a centre back. Her teammates value what she can bring, and she can be an effective player in any role.”
🏔🎥 | @LehalSimi reflects on her high-impact performance tonight vs. UNBC, and discusses what it's like to shift between centre back and forward (and back again!) mid-game!#WeClimbWeConquer pic.twitter.com/gJrILlkWmI— UFV Cascades (@UFVCascades) October 16, 2021
Sunday’s game saw a clutch 75th minute goal by Alanna Sydenham be enough to will the Cascades to win in the rain over UNBC. The 1-0 win was the third shutout this season for goalkeeper Joven Sandhu.
The Cascades began the game by honouring seven graduating athletes – Lehal, Sandhu, Kelsey Mitchell, Taylor Nekic, Harneet Dadrao, Sarah Parker, and Brittany Costa.
“They’ve given their all,” he said. “They’ve meant a lot to myself, the Cascades, their teammates. The amount of time they’ve spent, on the field and off the field, they’ve helped this program immensely. I was very emotional for them off the field, and I can only imagine how emotional it was for them and their families. I’m super-proud of them. They gave it their all, and they always give it their all. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
UFV now has a record of 4-4-2 on the season.
The women next head to Kelowna to take on the UBC-O Heat on Friday (Oct. 22) and Saturday (Oct. 23). Those are the final games of the season. UFV will finish anywhere from third to fifth in the West depending on this weekend’s results. Only the top four teams can qualify for the postseason.
The UFV men battled the rain as well, but Friday’s game saw a late goal cost the club big time.
The Cascades got goals from Tobias Spiess (18th minute) and Trevor Zanatta (37th minute) to have a stranglehold on the game, but just a few minutes later UNBC’s Michael Henman scored to make it a 2-1 game after one half.
The Timberwolves then connected on a penalty kick in the 87th minute to earn the single point and prevent UFV from collecting a needed win.
“In the second half, we’ve created some chances, but I thought we sat too deep and allowed them to carry a lot of the play,” stated men’s head coach Tom Lowndes. “In all honesty, 2-2, they (UNBC) will probably say they deserved more. The manner we conceded the goal is frustrating, the fact that it’s so close to the end of the game is frustrating. But full credit to them. They deserved at least a tie.”
It was a remarkably similar story on Sunday, as the Cascades again jumped out to a 2-0 lead, only for UNBC to eventually answer back and then tie the game up late.
The Cascades got a pair of goals from Trevor Zanatta (fourth and 13th minute) in the first half to hold a 2-0 lead until UNBC’s Stu Rowan scored at the 63rd minute. The Timberwolves then added a goal from Abou Cisse in the 87th minute to again escape Abbotsford with another single point.
“I thought our first half was fantastic, probably the best we’ve looked all season,” Lowndes said. “We created numerous chances – missed a pen, their keeper’s made three or four good saves, we’ve hit the bar… it could have been 4-0 or 5-0 at halftime, and wouldn’t have been an unfair result.
“And then for whatever reason, second half, we come out again and I don’t know if it’s a lapse in concentration or what it is, but just a bad 20-minute period that kind of set the tone. Two poor goals, in terms of how we conceded them. Our balance was poor, and we allowed them too much space … we weren’t able to kill the game off.”
The men sit in fifth place in the West division with a record of 2-3-5 and will need two wins and some help in order to qualify for the playoffs. They take on the UBC-O Heat in Kelowna on Friday (Oct. 22) and Saturday (Oct. 23).
For more on the teams, visit gocascades.ca.