Vikes put on strong finish despite loss to host Blues

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By Ali Lee, with files from CIS Communications

November 3, 2012, Toronto, ON – The University of Victoria Vikes women’s field hockey team came out with class in their final game of the 2012 CIS national championship on Saturday morning. The Vikes were defeated 1-0 by the No. 2 seeded Toronto Varsity Blues despite holding the hosts to 52 minutes of scoreless action.

Toronto’s Tegan Stairs notched the lone goal when she received a nice give-and-go from her younger sister, Emma, and found the back of the net mid-way through the second half. Toronto ends the round robin with a 2-1-1 record with a shot at the CIS title, while the Vikes finish finish the tournament with a 0-4 record.

The young Vikes side, with nothing to lose, left their hearts on the turf matching the Varsity Blues, who previously tied the No. 1 seeded UBC T-Birds 1-1 in pool play. With Western upsetting Guelph in the previous match, the Vikes knew they were eliminated from medal contention. Regardless, the team of 11 first-year athletes put on a show of effort and pride.

A tightly played first half carried over into the second as both teams engaged in a defensive battle, with Victoria surviving a tough two-minute stretch of pressure by Toronto.

The Varsity Blues had three straight penalty corners in that span that saw North Vancouver, B.C. native Heather Haughn just miss to the left of the goal and then Kaelan Watson of Richmond, B.C. ring a shot off the crossbar in the 43rd minute.

Player of the game honours went to goalkeeper Kathryn Williams of Burlington, Ont., who notched her second shutout victory of the tournament. For the visitors, Victoria first-year and Canadian junior national team member Kathleen Leahy (Victoria, BC) picked up the game MVP nod.

“We have 11 rookies and that was the way we needed to end,” said Vikes head coach Lynne Beecroft. “They played with heart and energy and passion. Hopefully we can go forward from here and see ourselves in the next CIS championship.”

For Beecroft this will be her fifth of 27 national championship appearances, where the Vikes have fallen short of a medal.

With one game left in the round robin, featuring the Western Mustangs (2-1-0 / 6ts) and UBC Thunderbirds (2-0-1 / 7pts), there are now only three possible championship pairings. A UBC win or tie would mean the No. 1 Thunderbirds and Varsity Blues would square off for gold in a rematch of the tournament’s opener, which ended in a 1-1 tie.

A Western win would mean they would either face UBC or Toronto depending on the margin of victory as goal differential is the chief tiebreaker.

Toronto’s shut out win also means the Guelph Gryphons (2-2-0 / 6 pts) will wait to see either the Mustangs or Blues for bronze, depending on the outcome of today’s final game.

The Vikes end their 2012 CIS season without competing in either medal match and will return home finishing fifth at their 31st national championship appearance.

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