At the start of the season, Trinity Western Spartans head coach Graham Roxburgh knew his team had talent, but he didn’t know whether that would translate to success on the pitch.
Consider that question answered.
For the seventh time in program history, the Spartans women’s soccer team was crowned Canada West champions after a 2-1 victory over the Victoria Vikes on Saturday night at TWU’s Chase Office Field.
Kathryn Harvey scored in the third minute and Brooklyn Tidder doubled the lead in the 53rd minute.
The Vikes’ Georgia Bignold cut the lead in half in the 71st minute but the Spartans defence stiffened and did not allow Victoria much in the way of quality chances over the final 20-plus minutes.
The Spartans and Vikes are off to Winnipeg for the U Sports national championships, hosted by the University of Brandon. They run Nov. 9 to 12 with TWU facing the host Bobcats on opening day.
TWU had booked their spot at nationals with a 3-0 win over the UBC Thunderbirds on Friday.
The fact the Spartans finished first in Canada West, both in the regular season and in the playoffs, and qualified for nationals, was a testament to his players’ efforts, Roxburgh said.
“We were new together, a new back four together,” he said. “New players stepping up with new roles. They have worked so hard, they deserved this.”
“We knew we had the quality within our group, it was just would we believe and would we work hard and we did.”
Beating UBC in the semifinals was sweet revenge for the Spartans as the Thunderbirds defeated TWU in both the 2015 and 2016 Canada West gold medal games. UBC also beat TWU in the 2015 national championship game.
In Friday’s semifinal, Rachel Hutchinson scored twice and Elizabeth Hicks had the other goal.
The Thunderbirds had just one shot on goal.
“To be the best you have to beat the best and I think UBC Is an excellent program,” Roxburgh said. “I don’t know how we could have played any better last night, they didn’t have a sniff.”
Prior to the Canada West Final Four championships, Seina Kashima was named a conference first team all-star while Tidder and and Amy Gartke were second team selections. And Kathryn Harvey was named to the Canada West all-rookie team.
OT heartbreak for TWU
Up 2-0 in the second half, the Trinity Western Spartans men’s soccer team fell 3-2 in overtime to the UBC Thunderbirds.
The two rivals were playing at UBC’s Thunderbird Stadium in the Canada West gold medal game, with the winner advancing to the U Sports national championships.
But one game after upsetting the higher-seed Alberta Golden Bears by that same 3-2 overtime score, the Spartans could not hang on.
The Canada West silver medal is the program’s best finish since they also placed second in 2008.
Vito Poletto and Leighton Johnson scored in the 4th and 59th minutes, respectively.
Victory Shumbusho got the T-Birds on the board in the 69th minute and Connor Guilherme tied it in the 80th minute.
Guilherme would strike again in the 98th minute for the eventual winner.
Against Alberta in the semifinal, Caleb Johnson and Domenic Poletto scored for the Spartans to erase a 1-0 deficit. But the Golden Bears’s Ajeej Sarkaria struck in the 77th minute to force overtime.
Johnson netted the winner in the 95th minute.
TWU coach Mike Sharon — in just his second season — earned the Canada West coach of the year award. Elie Gindo was named a Canada West first team all-star while Johnson was a second team all-star and Sebastian Colyn was named to the conference all-rookie team.