Highlanders face Whitecaps U-23 in first home playoff match in team history
(Photo credit: APShutter.com)
VICTORIA – After a last-second goal in their regular season finale propelled them to a win over Sounders U-23 and into second place in the Premier Development League’s Northwest Division, Victoria Highlanders FC will now host a streaking Whitecaps U-23 squad, July 16 at Royal Athletic Park for the first Highlanders home playoff game in club history.
Victoria went undefeated at home this season en route to posting an 8-3-3 overall record. With a victory Wednesday, the Victoria-based squad would return to the Western Conference Final Four for the second straight year.
The Highlanders went undefeated in their final five games of the season and are currently riding a three game winning streak after victories over Lane United, Puget Sound Gunners and Sounders U-23. The toughest stretch of the season for the Victoria squad was a winless three game stretch in late May that included a draw followed by back-to-back losses to 2014 Northwest Division winners Kitsap Pumas as well as Washington Crossfire.
Highlander forwards Blair Sturrock and Cam Hundal led Victoria this season with six and five goals, respectivley, following the 14-game campaign. After a slow start to the season, Hundal finished strong with goals in three-straight matches and was pivotal in setting up two own-goals in victories over Puget Sound Gunners and Sounders U-23 in Victoria’s final two games of play. On defence, Victoria matched their 2013 Western Conference Champion campaign on defence with 13 goals against this season. Between the woodwork, the tandem of veteran ‘keeper Elliot Mitrou and returning Victoria product Brandon Watson provided Victoria with stability in net, splitting duties to capture eight wins and three draws.
After opening the season with six straight losses, Whitecaps U-23 turned their season around to rally off eight wins in a row, finishing tied with the Highlanders 27 points. The early season losses included two to the Highlanders, who pushed the ‘Caps to third place after earning the tiebreaker advantage in head-to-head matches this season.
Forwards Cody Cook and Niall Cousens led on offence down the stretch for the ‘Caps, posting 10 and seven goals, respectively this season. Six other teammates, including former Highlander Brett Levis registered at least two goals throughout the year. Colton O’Neill was a workhorse for Vancouver on the back line, leading the team in minutes played and collecting a pair of assists along the way. In net, ‘keepers Nolan Wirth and Marco Carducci took the brunt of duties in net, earning seven wins in 10 games played between them.
Kick-off for Wednesday’s July 16 playoff match versus the Whitecaps is set for 7:00 p.m. at Royal Athletic Park. It is the first ever home playoff match for the PDL franchise and will determine who joins the Kitsap Pumas among the Western Conference’s Final Four teams. Tickets to the match are available at www.selectyourtickets.com or by calling 250-590-8432. For more information, please visit www.highlandersfc.ca.