October 19, 2012, LANGLEY, British Columbia – The Trinity Western men’s soccer team returns home this weekend for the first time in over a month as it hosts Fraser Valley Friday and Victoria Saturday at Rogers Field. Kickoff for both games is at 7 p.m. and both will be streamed live at www.canadawest.tv.
TRINITY WESTERN SPARTANS (7-1-2)
CIS ranking: No. 8
Pacific Division position: 2nd
Last weekend: Saskatchewan 1-0 W, Alberta 2-1 L
Streak: 1 loss
2011 Canada West record: 8-4-2, 3rd
2011 Canada West tournament: 0-2, 4th
2011 CIS tournament: N/A
The last time the Spartans played a home date was Sept. 15 and, after six straight games on the road, TWU will play the same two teams they faced in their last home stand with Fraser Valley, who the Spartans beat 2-1 last time, and Victoria, who they beat 3-1 last time, again providing the opposition.
Since their last match at Rogers Field, the Spartans went 4-1-1 on the road, they clinched a playoff spot and, up until last Sunday’s 2-1 loss to Alberta, were unbeaten on the season.
Now, for the first time all year, including preseason, TWU will enter a contest needing to bounce back from a loss. But with the Pacific Division title still on the line with four games to play, the Spartans are well aware there is very little room for error if they are to catch division-leading UBC, who enter the weekend five points clear.
However, with games against Victoria and Fraser Valley and then two against UBC to end the season, the Spartans destiny is in their own hands. And TWU’s stretch drive begins in earnest this weekend.
The key for the Spartans will be finishing their chances. While the defensive line has been solid all year and has only allowed two goals in a game twice this year, offensively, TWU offence has at times lacked a killer instinct. Only twice all season have the Spartans scored more than two goals.
While they have the ability to find the back of the net – with the likes of Jarvis Ambaka, who has a team-high six goals (5th in Canada West) and Spencer Schmidt, who has four markers, leading the way – consistency in burying chances will be critical this weekend.
Fortunately for TWU, on the defensive side of the ball, the Spartans have been solid. In 10 games, the Spartans have allowed just nine goals with only UBC (six) and Alberta (seven) giving up fewer. This Friday, they will look to continue that trend but will be forced to do so without the services of left-back Cody Strelau, who is suspended for one game after accumulating three yellow cards this season.
While the back four for TWU have been impressive, goalie Evan Lowther, playing as the starter for the first time in his career, is also finding his form and solidifying the team defensively. Through seven games, he has a 1.00 goals against average (3rd in CW) and a .767 save percentage (5th in CW).
VICTORIA VIKES (5-3-2)
CIS ranking: NR
Pacific Division position: 3rd
Last weekend: UFV 2-2 T, 2-1 W
Streak: 1 win
2011 Canada West record: 10-2-2, 1st
2011 Canada West tournament: 1-1, 3rd
2011 CIS tournament: 3-0, 1st
Ranked No. 1 in Canada to open the year, defending national champion Victoria got off to a slow start. Following an opening weekend sweep of UNBC, the Vikes struggled in four straight games, losing to TWU, UBC and Calgary and playing to a draw with Lethbridge. But since then, Victoria has started to look more like the team people expected and as they enter this weekend, will once again be a formidable opponent for the Spartans.
Over their last four games, the Vikes are 3-0-1, which includes a win over now-No. 3 Alberta. And having lost by a 3-1 count last time they played the Spartans, which was the first loss of their four-game winless skid, the Vikes come into this weekend looking for a little revenge. And with only six points separating the third place Vikes from the second-place Spartans, there is still time for Victoria to make a push to catch TWU.
Victoria has been amongst the league-leaders in scoring all year as they are averaging 2.10 goals per game (3rd in CW). With Craig Gorman and Craig Taylor leading the way for the Vikes with five goals each, Victoria certainly has the necessary firepower up front.
On the back end, the Vikes haven’t been quite as stingy as last season – when they allowed just 11 goals in 14 games – but they still have a quality back line and a veteran goalkeeper in Elliot Mitrou. Through 10 games, Victoria’s 12 goals against is the fourth fewest goals in Canada West. And while Mitrou’s 1.33 goals against average is double last year’s league-best 0.67 GAA, there is still plenty of reason to believe he is capable of shutting the door on any given night.
FRASER VALLEY CASCADES (3-3-4)
CIS ranking: NR
Pacific Division position: 4th
Last weekend: UNBC 2-0 W, 3-0 W
Streak: 2 wins
2011 Canada West record: 1-11-2, 8th
2011 Canada West tournament: N/A
2011 CIS tournament: N/A
The Cascades enter this weekend perilously hanging on to the hope of making it to the post-season. With a 3-3-4 record, UFV sits four points behind Victoria, who currently resides in the third and final playoff spot in the Pacific Division. But while it will take an impressive effort in their final four games of the season to catch the Vikes, UFV is still in the mix. And for the Spartans, that means they’ll have a hungry team on their hands.
Fraser Valley comes into Friday’s tilt following back-to-back wins in Canada West regular season action for the first time since 2008. With victories over UNBC on the road, the Cascades will certainly have some momentum when they take to the pitch Friday.
With a combined five goals scored this past weekend, the Cascades are now fifth in Canada West, scoring an average of 1.80 goals per game. And for UFV, the offence has come by committee all year. The Cascades have 10 different goal-scorers this seaon and six have at least two goals. Sasa Plavsic leads the team with three goals but after him, Najman James, Connor O’Neill, Justin Sekhon, Koby Byrne and Dalibor Plavsic all have two markers to their credit.
Defensively, the Cascades earned back-to-back shutouts in their wins over UNBC this past weekend as they have now had a clean sheet in each one of their three wins. With a consistent defensive line that includes the likes of Ryan Liddiard, Colton O’Neill, Ravi Singh and Cam MacKinnon, along with veteran keeper Mark Village, the Cascades have allowed 1.40 goals per game, which is sixth in the conference.