LANGLEY, British Columbia – The No. 2 Trinity Western women’s soccer team’s quest for an unprecedented CIS three-peat begins in earnest this Friday as the Spartans embark on the Canada West playoffs with a quarter-final match against UBC at 6 p.m.
After a 10-1-1 regular season that saw TWU top the Pacific Division, the do-or-die season starts Friday when the first place Spartans take on the fourth place Thunderbirds.
This weekend’s playoff tilt will mark the Spartans and T-Birds second meeting in six days and third in the last two weeks. The Spartans beat UBC 3-0 on Oct. 11 at home but lost to the T-Birds 1-0 on the road in the regular season finale this past Sunday.
The last time TWU and UBC played in the playoffs was in the 2009 Canada West gold medal match in which the Spartans won 1-0. Kristen Santema is the lone Spartans player who remains from that TWU side.
Kickoff Friday is at 6 p.m. and can be seen at www.canadawest.tv.
TRINITY WESTERN SPARTANS (10-1-1)
CIS ranking: No. 2
Pacific Division Standings: 1st
Last weekend: UFV 4-2 W, UBC 1-0 L
Streak: 1 loss
2013 Canada West record: 8-1-3, 3rd (tied)
2013 Canada West tournament: 2-1, 2nd
2013 CIS tournament: 3-0, 1st
As the two-time defending national champions, the Spartans enter the playoffs looking to do something no team has ever done in CIS women’s soccer history: win three straight gold medals.
The quest to do that begins Friday with a match against their local rivals from UBC. A win will put the Spartans into the Canada West Final Four, which would be hosted by TWU Oct. 31-Nov. 1. A loss against the T-Birds and the Spartans season will be over.
For the third time in the last four years, the Spartans finished the season atop the Canada West standings. The Spartans impressive 10-1-1 record this year included a nine-game winning streak and also marked TWU’s fourth straight regular season in which it has lost only one game. The Spartans were unbeaten until their final game of the regular season when they lost to UBC in a statistically meaningless game in which coach Graham Roxburgh rested a number of key TWU starters.
A KING WAS CROWNED
Jessica King had a fifth-year to remember. After scoring three goals in the Canada West regular season last year, King exploded this year for a team-leading 12 goals, including a conference best seven game-winners. She scored in eight of the Spartans 12 games and finished second in the conference in goals, trailing only Saskatchewan’s Janelle Zapski, who tallied 14.
The Spartans finished the 2014 regular season with a conference-leading 31 goals in 12 games for an average of 2.6 goals per game. The Spartans scored two or more goals in eight of their 12 games and the only time they were shutout was in the season finale against UBC when they started only four regulars. TWU had nine different goal-scorers this year, led by King (12), Krista Gommeringer (5), Seina Kashima (4) and Alessandra Oliverio (3).
UBC THUNDERBIRDS (6-4-2)
CIS ranking: NR
Pacific Division Standings: 4th
Last weekend: Victoria 3-1 L, TWU 1-0 W
Streak: 1 win
2013 Canada West record: 8-1-3
2013 Canada West tournament: 1-2, 4th
2013 CIS tournament: N/A
Regardless of who was or wasn’t on the pitch last Sunday, the Thunderbirds did something no team has done all year: beat TWU. Coming off a pair of losses in its previous two games, UBC needed to get that winning feeling back as it headed into the postseason and a victory over then No. 1 TWU did just that.
Now, the challenge will be for the T-Birds to duplicate that result on the road against the Spartans starting unit. In each of the past three years, UBC have seen its CIS championship hopes dashed with a loss in the Canada West semifinals. This year, the tallest task might just be getting to the semifinals at all.
If you ask the T-Birds, they likely won’t really care who they beat or how they won against TWU. They’ll likely just point to the fact that it happened and that they enter this weekend with an elevated confidence that indeed they can knock off the two-time defending CIS champions. After a three-game winless slide, the victory over the Spartans got UBC back in the win column and improved its record to 6-4-2 on the season.
Other than UBC’s win over TWU on the last day of the year, the T-Birds struggled against the heavyweights of the Pacific Division. In six games against the likes of TWU, Victoria and Fraser Valley, UBC posted a combined record of just 1-4-1. In those six games, the T-Birds scored just three goals and were shut out three times. Prior to their final game of the year, UBC’s previous two games saw it lose to TWU 3-0 and Victoria 3-1.
DEFENSIVELY SOUND, AT TIMES
While the T-Birds were unable to generate much success against the top teams in their division, they did well to take care of business against the lower ranked sides. In its six games against the bottom three teams in the division, UBC was 5-0-1 and outscored its opposition 16-1. Compared to the Spartans, who outscored those same three teams 20-5, the T-Birds proved to be much sharper defensively in picking up five clean sheets.