UFV women’s soccer team primed for Canada West Final Four in Langley

Dayle Jeras

There’s a sense of focus and quiet confidence among the University of the Fraser Valley women’s soccer players as they prepare for the Canada West Final Four this weekend.

The Cascades are just one victory away from punching their ticket to the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) national championship tournament, and that pivotal game kicks off on Friday evening at 7:30 p.m. at Rogers Field on the Trinity Western University campus in Langley.

Dayle Jeras

UFV takes on the Alberta Pandas in the conference semifinals, with the winner ensuring not only a berth to the Canada West title game, but a trip to Quebec City for the CIS tourney, Nov. 6-9.

Friday’s early semifinal features Final Four host Trinity Western taking on the Saskatchewan Huskies at 5 p.m.

“I think everyone’s ready for this,” Cascades co-captain Kara Delwo said, pondering the chance to play for a nationals berth. “It’s a good feeling, and it’s something that’s come from a lot of hard work the past couple years. It’s been building and building, and it finally feels like it’s materializing now . . . we really have worked for and earned it.”

Standing in the Cascades’ way are the Pandas, a formidable foe. They finished atop the Prairies Division with a 7-1-4 regular season record, and they’re ranked No. 7 nationally.

Alberta’s calling card is its stout defence – the Pandas surrendered just six goals in 12 regular season games, the best mark in Canada West, and fifth-year goalkeeper Kelti Biggs led the league with a 0.50 goals against average and seven shutouts.

Fourth-year forward Jessie Candlish was the Pandas’ primary offensive threat, scoring five goals and adding two assists in the regular season, while Annalise Schellenberg and Maggie Zacsko notched three goals apiece.

“They’re a traditional powerhouse,” Cascades coach Rob Giesbrecht said of Alberta. “They’ve been to the national tournament numerous times, they’re last year’s Canada West champions, they’re well-coached, well-organized. It’s going to be a tough game – they’re a solid team throughout.

“They don’t give up a lot, and it comes down to their goalkeeping as well as their organization. We need to play with confidence and focus on taking care of the little things, and just play cohesively.”

The Cascades (7-2-3 in the regular season) are returning to the CW Final Four for the first time since 2010, when they won the conference title and went on to claim bronze at nationals.

Strikers Shelby Beck and Monika Levarsky tied for the team lead with six goals apiece, and midfielder Carley Radomski is coming off a two-goal outing in the Cascades’ 3-0 quarter-final victory over the Victoria Vikes.

The UFV women, currently ranked No. 10 in the CIS, are defensively stingy in their own right, allowing just 10 goals through 13 regular season and playoff games. Holding midfielder Delwo, defender Dayle Jeras and keeper Kayla Klim spearhead the Cascades’ goal-suppression effort.

“We’ve just been building with each practice,” said Jeras, who co-captains the team with Delwo. “Complacency can set in for so many other teams, and us as leaders, we have to be ready to cut that out if we see it. But we haven’t had to address it at all. We’ve been sharp every practice.”

Saturday’s Final Four schedule features the conference bronze medal game at 5 p.m. and the gold medal game at 7 p.m. All games are at TWU’s Rogers Field, and will be broadcast online at canadawest.tv.

– with files from University of Alberta Athletics