Stokes punches Vikes ticket to Canada West Final Four

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Cam Stokes scored the game winner in added time as the Vikes ousted Fraser Valley 2-1

By Ali Lee, 

(ISN) – VICTORIA, B.C. – The University of Victoria Vikes men’s soccer team punched their ticket to the Canada West Final Four in a dramatic finish. Fifth-year striker Cameron Stokes scored his second of the match in the 90th minute to lift the Vikes 2-1 over the visiting Fraser Valley Cascades on Oct .26 in the Canada West quarter-finals.

 

The game was re-scheduled from Saturday night at Centennial Stadium to the UVic artificial turf, an advantage for Fraser Valley, whose home pitch is the same surface. Regardless, it was the Vikes who came out victorious in the competitive battle with Stokes scoring his ninth and tenth goals of the season, while keeper Noah Pawlowski made five key saves.

For the Cascades, senior keeper Mark Village was integral, logging six saves, and stepping up to take several free kicks the team. Defender Ryan Liddiard and midfielders Michael Mobilio and Colton O’Neill had strong performances, while third-year Connor MacMillan was the lone goal scorer in the 45th minute.

“I thought we adapted well today,” commented Vikes head coach Bruce Wilson about the late location change to the artificial surface. “We had some very good chances and we had a goal called back but at the end of the day we kept battling.”

It took 14 minutes before the first scoring attempt occurred and it was a header from Cascades midfielder Justin Sekhon, saved well by Pawlowksi at close range. Just seconds later and a free kick taken by Victoria’s Craig Gorman curled towards goal and almost seemed to fool Fraser Valley keeper Village but his out-stretched right arm was enough to steer the ball wide.

The Vikes had a few other close scoring chances, one in the 21st as Cam Hundal sent a nifty chip pass to an overlapping Tarnvir Bhandal but the volley dropped just behind the goal. Three minutes following Stokes slipped a through ball to Gorman who had just Village to beat but the right-footed strike curled just wide of the left post.

Fraser Valley skipper Liddiard had the next best chance for the visitors as the fifth year struck a low free kick through traffic that was cleaned up well by Vikes net minder Pawlowski in the 26th.

Following some good possession the Vikes finally went up thanks to leading goal scorer Stokes who was fed a well-paced ball from Bhandal. Stokes scored his ninth goal of the season from just inside the 18-yard-box to give the Vikes a 1-0 advantage.

The Cascades thought they found the equalizer in the 40th minute when O’Neill’s free kick from the left side curled towards goal but just over the cross bar. Not to be disheartened, moments later a left-sided cross led to a scramble in the goal mouth. O’Neill collided in the box but from the ground managed to tap the ball to MacMillan who tied the game up 1-1, where it remained entering the break.

In the second half the Cascades came out firing earning several corner kicks and generating lots of havoc in front of the Vikes goalmouth. Victoria defenders Rhyse Harnden and Alex Redpath were exceptional in keeping the Cascades off the board.

The Vikes had a pretty passing play to transition from the left to right side of the pitch. Hundal slipped an overlap pass to Adam Ravenhill, whose cross was perfectly headed in to the net by second-half substitute Justin Donaldson. Unfortunately Ravenhill was deemed offside and the game remained 1-1 with 10 minutes to go.

The Cascades had two close chances, both headers, towards the end of the game that were saved on the line by the hands of Pawlowski.

It was foreshadowing though as Dait sent a cross from the left side of the pitch that found the head of Stokes just seconds before the final whistle blew. Stokes’ header gave the Vikes the 2-1 victory in added time and ultimately the ticket through to the Canada West Final Four hosted next weekend, Oct. 31-Nov. 1, at the University of Saskatchewan.

“Overwhelmed,” was the natural superlative to come out of Stokes’ mouth following his last minute heroics. “I had no clue how close to the end of the game it was. I am so overwhelmed and just so happy. I was nervous all week about this game. A lot of attention was put on our team and we were expected to perform and we did.”

The Vikes are now just one game away from a qualifying spot at the CIS National Championship, while the Cascades’ season comes to a breath-taking hault.

“Alex Redpath was again outstanding for us today,” added Wilson. “Our whole back four played exceptionally well and now that we are in playoffs they have to play well every day. We have enough talent going forward that we will score the one or two goals needed as long as we keep the score sheet zero the other way.”

The Vikes will likely play the No. 1-seed and hosts Saskatchewan in their first cross-over match of the Canada West Final Four next weekend. Games will take place at 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Oct. 31, while the bronze (11:30 a.m.) and gold (2 p.m) matches will happen on Nov. 1. Times listed are local to Saskatchewan. Games will be played at PotashCorp Park and will be broadcasted live at canadawest.tv.

SCORING SUMMARY
UFV: 1 – 0 : 1
UVIC: 1- 1 : 2

SCORING LEADERS
UFV: Cameron Stokes (34′, 90′)
UVIC: Connor MacMillan (45′)

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