Spartans lose overtime heartbreaker in Canada West final

trinity western_spartans1

November 2, 2013, VICTORIA (ISN) – The Trinity Western women’s soccer team was forced to settle for Canada West silver as Alberta’s Julia Ignacio scored the game-winning goal five minutes into overtime of the conference final and the Pandas knocked off the two-time defending Canada West champion Spartans 2-1 Saturday night at Centennial Stadium.

In the 95th minute, Ignacio (Edmonton) headed the ball into the net converting a cross from two yards out by Paula Dadensky (Stettler, Alta.), banking it off the cross bar past Spartans goalkeeper Rachel Bedek (London, Ont.) for what proved to be the winner.

Battling sloppy and soggy field conditions, both squads scored first-half goals – the Spartans Krista Gommeringer (Calgary) in the fifth minute and Alberta’s Jessie Candlish in the 35th minute – a were tied 1-1 at both halftime and at the end of regulation.

Despite the loss, the defending CIS champion Spartans still earned a berth in the national championship, where TWU will look to defend its CIS title starting Thursday in Toronto. The Spartans will be seeking their fifth national gold medal in the last 10 years.

The win marks Alberta’s first Canada West title since 2001. They now set their sights on a CIS banner, looking for their fourth in school history.

“We’re obviously bitterly disappointed that we couldn’t three-peat, but I’m really proud of the girls and how hard they fought tonight,” said Spartans coach Graham Roxburgh. “It wasn’t pretty soccer with the weather playing a factor but it was a good battle out there and, just like last night, one good team had to lose a tough game.

“Even though we scored early, we were flat through the first 15 minutes, but it was good to see the girls really pick it up over the final 75 minutes of regulation. We had some great performances from a number of players and they really hung in there and gave it their all.”

For the second straight game, Pandas goalkeeper Kelti Biggs (Spruce Grove, Alta.) made big saves when her team needed it the most. With a 2-1 lead, the senior netminder made a key save in the late stages of the first half of overtime, pushing a shot over the net from a free kick from 30 yards out. The Pandas defence cleared the ensuing corner kick.

Like they had done all weekend, Alberta played well defensively from then on and held on to win.

The Spartans opened the scoring on a through-pass that unexpectedly stopped and slowed down on the soggy pitch. It affected Biggs’ ability to play the ball, allowing sophomore Gommeringer to step around the goalkeeper and slide the ball into the net in the fifth minute.

Junior Edmonton native Candlish tied the game in the 35th minute, off a broken corner kick play, getting the ball on the far post after Rebecca Brandt (Edmonton) crossed the ball to set up the tap-in. The Spartans defenders were trying to catch the Pandas offside.

In the second half, the Spartans had two wonderful chances warded off by Biggs, before Alberta had its own golden opportunity off the boot of junior Annalise Schellenberg (Edmonton), but her attempt sailed just over the crossbar.

In time added on in the second half, Biggs came out to slide and knock the ball away on a dangerous TWU scoring chance from fifth-year senior midfielder Natalie Boyd (Surrey, B.C.), extending the game to overtime.

After Ignacio’s goal five minutes into the first extra-time half, the Spartans desperately tried to tie the match. In the final three minutes of extra time, Caitlin Haines (New Westminster, B.C.) was robbed by Biggs, and the Spartans pressured the Pandas throughout the final minutes but could not equalize.

In the bronze-medal game, the UVic Vikes defeated the UBC Thunderbirds on penalty kicks, by a 3-1 margin.