Championship hosts look to continue clean sheet with Calgary road games

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By Ali Lee, Vikes Communications

VICTORIA, B.C. – Following a bye weekend the University of Victoria Vikes women’s field hockey team will head to Calgary for a pair of Canada West games, Oct. 3-4, and an opportunity to extend their current 2-0 record. The Vikes who dropped the reigning four-time CIS champions, the UBC Thunderbirds, in their opening weekend of play, have yet to concede a goal, while the Dinos fell 2-1 and 2-0 in their T-Birds double header last weekend, Sept. 24-25.

Following a 2-1 pre-season record against Brown, Yale and Harvard in late August, the Vikes have been able to fine tune their offence. Four different scorers netted against UBC including 2014 CIS First Team All-Canadian Amanda Kurianowicz, who potted a goal a game, Sept. 19-20, to earn Canada West Third Star of the Week honours.

“We would like the team to continue to work on possession skills, as well as, quick transition from offence to defence and vice versa,” said Vikes women’s field hockey head coach Lynne Beecroft, who continues to take it one game at a time. “The goal of the team is to earn a spot into the CIS Championship.  With that being said, we can’t take any opposition lightly. Our team knows that Calgary almost won their match versus UBC last weekend and therefore t is not going to be an easy weekend of games!”

The Vikes will earn an automatic berth to the CIS Championships as hosts, Nov. 5-8, while Beecroft is focused on still qualifying and earning a top seed entering the four-team tournament. That journey continues this weekend with the next two games of their eight-game schedule.

“We want to make sure we don’t follow the philosophy of the buffalo, which is to have just one leader,” explains Beecroft who can rely on her squad that includes 11 players in third year or higher. “If that athlete is shut down it could prevent the Vikes from being successful.  So, we would like to see multiple players stepping up to lead the team this weekend.”

Without a doubt Kurianowicz alongside teammate and forward Lizzie Yates will be expected to drive the offence on the pitch, while midfield strengths can be stretched across current national team member Kathleen Leahy, and fourth years Andrea Jones and Mei Lin Cheung. Defensively, the Vikes can continue to rely on the new talents of rookie Alexis De Armond, while fourth years Annie Walters-Shumka and Rosie Beale pose a tough opponent to get past before meeting keeper Larissa Piva. Piva was credited with the opening two shutouts.

Calgary, who are mixed into the Canada West conference with the B.C. powerhouses of Victoria and UBC, have made quite the climb over the past few seasons. Despite boasting 13 first-year players the 2015 Dinos have some much-needed talent coming out of that freshman class. First-year midfielder Meghan Norlander played high school hockey for the Handsworth Royals, a multiple AAA Provincial championship program, while West Vancouver native and rookie defender Sabrina Wong brings a wealth of experience after competing with several of B.C.’s top provincial teams.

Calgary head coach Henre Meyer adds former Guelph stand out Brittany Seidler to his assistant coach list, while the returning strengths of seniors Nadia Izzo, Jessica Britton, Janelle Rice and Beckett Frisch will be tasked with leading the squad to a hopeful championship berth.

“With nothing to lose, I am sure (Calgary) will do everything in their power to try and beat us,” adds Beecroft. “We also know that their goalie, Beckett, last year’s Canada West Player of the Year, has trained with the Canadian national team for the past eight months and will be more prepared than ever to keep the ball out of her net.”

The Vikes are well rested from their bye weekend and after 3-0 and 2-0 wins over UBC in their opening weekend, Sept. 19-20, are hopeful that their extra week of training will allow them to continue to find success against Calgary.

“We have had more high intensity practices and worked hard physically the past two weeks so, I trust that we can push the pace of play to a higher level than we did versus UBC,” commented Beecroft. “We have also had time to work on penalty corners, and trust that we will score a few more goals from these set piece opportunities.”

Beecroft and the Vikes depart for Calgary on Friday, while they will play at Hawkings Field in Calgary on Oct. 3 and 4 at 11 a.m. Pacific Time. Following this weekend’s road trip the Vikes will visit UBC for two games, Oct. 10-11, before closing out their regular season hosting Calgary, Oct. 24-25. The CIS national championship will take the Vikes, plus one other top-ranked Canada West team and two from the OUA conference, and will be played on the University of Victoria Campus from Nov. 5-8.