Sept 6,2014(ISN) – VICTORIA, B.C. – The University of Victoria Vikes men’s soccer team fell 3-1 to the two-time defending CIS national champions, the UBC Thunderbirds, on Sept. 5 at Centennial Stadium. The Days of Thunder home opener leaves the Vikes pointless at a 0-1-0 record, while the T-Birds start their three-peat campaign on a good start now 1-0-0.
Six-foot-three keeper Noah Pawlowski was called upon to make seven saves against the T-Birds, who return nine of 11 starters from last season. Rookie Justin Donaldson had the near-capacity crowd on its feet a number of times as the speedy striker showed a glimpse of where the future of the Vikes offence may lie. Rhyse Harnden was the lone Vike to get on the board, scoring off a set piece in the 89th minute.
UBC had a two-goal game from their big man up front Niall Cousens, while Navid Mashinchi’s one-timer was credited as the game winner. The T-Birds out-shot the Vikes 15-8 and 10 of their shots were on target. Third-year keeper Ante Boskovic was called to duty for three saves in the game.
“I am very pleased with how we played tonight,” said Vikes head coach Bruce Wilson. “We battled hard against the defending national champs. We did alright and it’s not a bad start but we need to finish our chances.”
It took nearly 18 minutes before the first shot by either team was taken. UBC senior Mashinchi forced a close-range save out of Vikes keeper and third-year transfer Pawlowski.
Both teams had some creative attacking rushes, each stymied by quality defensive work. The ‘Birds showed strength in their back line with the height of Bryan Fong and Paul Clerc providing a wall, while the speed of Vikes Alex Redpath and Tarnvir Bhandal minimized damage in the other end.
The Vikes’ first real shot came from 2011 CIS Championship MVP Cam Hundal in the 34th minute but his one-timer sailed over the bar.
Just four minutes later, a nifty pass in to traffic from Mashinchi found the right foot of Cousens and the fourth-year spun on his reception to free himself up with only Pawlowski in his way. The Canada West First Team All-Star made good on his chance from just inside the box and lifted the two-time defending national champions up 1-0.
Before the break the Vikes had a long-range free kick, taken by Cameron Stokes, but that attempt was easily collected by UBC netminder Boskovic to keep the T-Birds up by one entering the break.
In the second half, the T-Birds found some comfort, lifting their lead by two on a precise finish by Mashinchi. The five-foot-nine midfielder buried a right-side cross from Mehrabi for his second point of the night.
UBC continued to dominate in the midfield with the Vikes back line put in fits by the speed and size of Cousens and Harry Lakhan up the middle. Mehrabi nearly increased the lead with just over 20 mintues to go after some one-two passing on the top of the box freed him up for a go but his shot blasted just wide right of the net.
Against the flow the Vikes managed to get on the board off a Redpath free kick. Harnden managed to make good on the connection and his header got the Vikes their first goal of the season and brought the Vikes within one.
Cousens volleyed in the T-Birds’ third goal after a Vikes injury seemed to cause some confusion about if play was still going on. The final tally lifted the ‘Birds up 3-1 and gave them their 17th consecutive win since the start of their 2013 campaign.
“We had a really good performance tonight,” commented Pawlowski after his first Canada West match. “We were in it the whole game and unlucky with our finishing. It’s a numbers game and we have to get better at shooting the ball but it’s something we will continue to work on.”
Up next the Vikes will host Trinity Western at 7:15 p.m. at Centennial Stadium while UBC will head to Abbotsford to face Fraser Valley at 2:00 p.m. on Sept. 7. Both games will be streamed with live video and stats at http://canadawest.tv.
UBC: 1 – 2 : 3
UVIC: 0 – 1 : 1
UBC: Niall Cousens (38′, 90′), Navid Mashinchi (58′)
UVIC: Rhyse Harnden (89′)