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By Matt Gutsch, With Photos From Christian J. Stewart (ISN) 

November 1, 2013, Victoria, BC – Alberta Pandas striker Jesse Candlish scored in the first overtime and the University of Alberta Pandas soccer team was able to cradle that lead and come away with a 2-1 victory Friday night over the UBC Thunderbirds in the Canada West Women’s soccer championship semi-final held in Victoria.

The win advances Alberta to the conference gold medal match, to be played on Sunday against Trinity Western (who defeated Victoria 2-1 in extra time in the other Canada West semi-final), but more importantly, it gives the Pandas one of two Canada West berths into the CIS championship tournament. Alberta, ranked No.3 nationally, will be in Toronto next week for their second national championship tournament appearance in three years.

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UBC’s Aman Shergill prepares to launch a long strike during action against Alberta Friday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

Veteran goalie Kelti Biggs made six stops for the resilient Pandas, including a terrific challenge and save off UBC star midfielder Janine Frazao in OT.

“It’s been a long season and a long hard fought battle with these guys. With UBC, it always comes down to the end,” said Biggs. “It just feels great to come out on top, especially after they came back after we had the lead. It ranks pretty high in my career list. The adrenaline you get from a game like this, with how hard your team is fighting, you have to fight hard for them, and make it worth it for them,” she added.

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Alberta’s Victoria Saccomani carries the ball ahead of UBC defenders Janine Frazao (9) and Shayla Chorney (24)(Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

Candlish scored the eventual game winner early in the first OT, while fifth-year defender Shalla Kadima scored the Pandas’ first goal. Kadima now has four goals in her last three games, and all of them have come against UBC.

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Alberta’s Laura Kautz looks for a way around UBC defender Tamara Roughhead (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

She opened the scoring in dramatic fashion, when, in the 43rd minute, she volleyed a loose ball from the top of the 18-yard box past a helpless Thunderbirds’ keeper, and just under the cross bar. Just like her three goal performance against UBC two weeks ago, the goal came off a corner kick.

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UBC’s Shayla Chorney (left) and Alberta’s Katherine Caverly battle for the ball during Canada West semi-final action Friday evening (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

The Pandas held that lead for the next 39 minutes, but couldn’t prevent the T-Birds from tying the score. The Thunderbirds equalized in the 82nd minute, also off a corner kick, when a free ball was headed into the Alberta goal by Taryn Lim.

With a berth to the national championship on the line, the teams returned to the pitch for overtime, but it was the Pandas who struck first. Seven minutes in, Canada West MVP Julia Ignacio walked around two UBC defenders before setting up Candlish for the goal mouth tap-in.

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UBC’s Janine Frazao (9) and Alberta’s Shalla Kadima (6) jump for a header, while UBC’s Aman Shergill (left) awaits their landing in Friday’s action (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

Alberta continued to the carry the play through the remainder of the first OT, but played to protect the lead in the second OT, and was helped by the play of Biggs.

They will now face Trinity Western in the gold medal match on Saturday night at 7:15 pm. The CIS championship will be competed for between November 7-10 at the University of Toronto.