UVic to face Saint Mary’s for national title Sunday at 2 p.m. PST

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Andy Watson

VICTORIA – Players on the 2011 edition of the UVic Vikes men’s soccer team are just over 12 hours away from the biggest contest in their lives.

Looking for their fifth championship in the history of the men’s soccer program, UVic looks to join a relatively long list of teams that have won the Sam Davidson memorial trophy at home, including the 1975 edition of the Vikes.

There are 11 teams that have won the national title on home soil in 41 previous championships including UBC (2007), Alberta (2006), UBC (1994), UBC (1989), UBC (1985), Laurentian (1983), McGill (1982), UNB (1980), Alberta (1979), Concordia (1976) and the Vikes (1975).

The championship final will kickoff at 2 p.m. at Centennial Stadium in Victoria on Sunday. Earlier in the day, Alberta faces Cape Breton for the bronze medal on Sunday at 11:30 a.m. PST.

Saint Mary’s, the AUS champion, advanced to their fifth final in team history with a 2-0 win over Alberta in extra time in Saturday’s first semifinal. The Vikes got a goal and an assist from Cam Hundal to advance to their first championshipgame since 2004 when the defeated McGill 3-1 to win the Sam Davidson memorial trophy.

The Huskies are seeking their first national title in five tries – they’ve been the runner-up four times, including their most recent trip to the championship finale in 2003 – while UVic is looking for its fifth national title in seven tries. They previously won in 2004, 1996, 1987 and 1975.

UVic and Saint Mary’s have not played in the history of the national tournament, but the VIkes do have a 6-1 record against AUS teams, winning the past three matches against schools from that conference. UVic has outscored AUS opponents 21-8 in national tournament history but has never faced a school from that conference in the championship game. UVic’s previous national tournament wins were a 3-1 win over the McGill Redmen in 2004, a 1-0 win over Western Ontario in 1996, a 3-1 win over Wilfrid Laurier in 1987 and a 2-1 win over Concordia in 1975.

There are a few other interesting story lines for tomorrow’s championship final.

This will be the final game for a number of UVic players – this is the final game for strikers Peter Richmond and Kyle Kostis, midfielders Miguel Romeo and Corey Sanford, fullback James Rhodes and goalkeeper Daniel Kilpatrick. A number of fourth-year players – goalkeeper Michael Branion-Calles, fullbacks Joel Gomez and Colin Wilson, midfielders David Adams and Lucas and Wesley Barrett and striker Jordie Oberg.

But while the seniors have played a key role in getting UVic to the championship final, there is one unexpected story of dominance with the Vikes dynamic duo of first-year Vikes Cam Hundal of Surrey, B.C., and Craig Gorman of Victoria – a pair that have arguably overshadowed the storyline of experience that was expected to be the key for any Vikes success in 2011. Instead the freshmen duo have given fans lots to talk about, with a chemistry similar to that of Gretzky and Kurri, Montana and Rice, or even Jordan and Pippen. They simply make each other better on the field and anticipate each other extremely well.

“(Cam) he’s so good at getting it down the line, and we’ve had this connection all the time where he just sends it down the line and I’m just running as hard as I can to get on the end of it.,” Gorman said.

Vikes head coach Bruce Wilson, in his 24th year with the program, had great praise for the Hundal-Gorman Express. Wilson, a former World Cup captain for Canada in 1986 and teammate of Pele in the professional league in New York City, saidhe’s even contemplating staying on to coach for four more years just to see the duo graduate. He said the Gorman-Hundal combination is extremely effective.

“They are great players,” he said. “They are young and we had a full roster so they only played half of the time, but I know what thing about Gorman: when Cam gets the ball, Gorman gets in front of the goal and he doesn’t miss.”

The other is the story of Huskies striker Elvir Gigolaj of London, Ont. WhetherSaint Mary’s wins or loses on Sunday, they’ve had an amazing playoff run.

After finishing sixth and earning the last playoff spot in the AUS with a 4-3-6 record, they now have more wins in the post-season, going 3-0 at the AUS championship to win the title and now 2-0 at Nationals.

Scoring five times in 13 conference games, striker Elvir Gigolaj has emerged as a big-game player in the playoffs with eight goals in five post-season games going into the CIS final. He scored once in the AUS semis, an amazing four times in the AUS final, once in the national quarter-final and twice in thenational semifinal.

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