LANGLEY, British Columbia – The Trinity Western men’s soccer teams enters the final weekend of the regular season with its playoff hopes very much on the line and come into Friday’s game at Rogers Field against Fraser Valley nearly in must-win territory.
The Spartans are two points behind UBC Okanagan for the fourth and final playoff spot and five points behind Fraser Valley for third in the Pacific Division. The Spartans will travel to play UBC Sunday in their season finale.
Friday’s game starts at 7 p.m. and can be seen at www.canadwest.tv.
The last time the Spartans and Cascades played, TWU won 1-0 in the season-opener.
TRINITY WESTERN SPARTANS (3-5-2)
CIS ranking: NR
Pacific Division Standings: 5th
Last weekend: Victoria 0-0 T, UBC 3-0 L
Streak: 1 loss
2013 Canada West record: 4-6-3, 4th
2013 Canada West tournament: N/A
2013 CIS tournament: N/A
The Spartans come into Friday’s contest needing a positive result. With just two games to play and two points separating TWU from UBC Okanagan, the Spartans will need to take care of their own business and get some out of town help to earn a playoff spot. The Spartans will be scoreboard watching as UBCO and Thompson Rivers play a home-and-home series Saturday and Sunday.
With two games left, the Pacific Division playoffs still very much hang in the balance. With a pair of wins this weekend, the Spartans could finish as high as third in the standings and thus avoid what would likely be a first round playoff matchup with UBC. The Spartans could also, theoretically, finish as low as sixth. Plenty is still up in the air. If teams are tied in the standings at the end of the year, the first tiebreaker is head-to-head matchups, followed by goal differential in head-to-head games, then goal differential overall, then goals for and, finally, a coin toss.
The Spartans need to find a way to score. They have struggled all year to finish their chances and with their playoff hopes on the line, it’s do or die. The Spartans haven’t scored in 301 minutes and have just 10 goals in 10 games this year. Of the Spartans six goal-scorers this year, Vito Poletto (Calgary) leads the team with three goals.
HOLDING THE FORT
TWU goalie Evan Lowther (Surrey, B.C.) has been one of the strengths of the Spartans in recent contests, keeping TWU in games when the offence hasn’t been there. Against Victoria, Lowther was the reason the Spartans walked off the pitch with a point. Through nine games this year, Lowther is averaging 5.1 saves per outing and has four shutouts.
FRASER VALLEY CASCADES (5-4-1)
CIS ranking: NR
Pacific Division Standings: 2nd
Last weekend: UBC 2-1 W, Victoria 1-1 T
Streak: 1 tie
2013 Canada West record: 6-7-1
2013 Canada West tournament: 2-1, 3rd
2013 CIS tournament: N/A
The Cascades are coming off an impressive weekend, as they became the first team all season to beat then No. 1 UBC on Friday and then followed that up by earning a 1-1 tie with No. 6 Victoria. Thanks to a Justin Sekhon goal in the 89th minute, UFV earned a regular season win over the T-Birds for the second straight year. Now, the Cascades need to follow that up with another successful weekend to lock down a playoff spot.
The Cascades have proven themselves very much capable of not only playing with, but also beating the big boys. Last year, UFV was the only team, all season, to beat the eventual CIS champion T-Birds. This year, UFV travelled to play an 8-0 UBC side and came away with a 2-1 win. Last year, after their win over UBC, the Cascades lost to an average Winnipeg side the following weekend. The question now is: how will they respond this weekend?
Having allowed just nine goals in 10 games this year, the Cascades are tied for second in Canada West in goals against, alongside Victoria and Saskatchewan. Only once has UFV allowed more than one goal in a game this year and that was in an early season 2-1 loss to UBCO. In the Cascades three games against ranked opponents – UBC twice and Victoria once – they have given up just three goals and are 1-1-1.
THE COLTON O’NEILL SHOW
Thanks to his abilities from the penalty spot, the fourth-year right back has become the backbone of the Cascades offence. O’Neill has gone four for five on penalty kicks and leads the team in scoring with five goals and three assists in 10 games. He is second in Canada West in penalty kick goals behind Saskatchewan’s David Brown, who has five.