Bisons get the better of Vikes in final regular season game

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WINNIPEG — The University of Victoria Vikes fell to the Manitoba Bisons 2-0 on the road on Sunday morning in the final game of the 2016 regular season.

The Vikes head into the playoffs ranked fifth in the Pacific Division behind the fourth-place UBC Thunderbirds while the Bisons clinched the last spot in the Prairie Division with the clutch performance.

Manitoba came out strong to start the game hoping to grab the momentum early, and set up a great scoring chance in the opening minute. From there, the play settled down as the teams battled up and down the field.

Victoria earned a few chances off of corner kicks in the first half, but the Manitoba backline and Wilford handled the threats well. 

Manitoba scored their first goal at 38′. After a great showing the day before, Bison rookie Hailey Lavarias notched her first career goal in Canada West with a perfectly taken shot from around 40 yards out to open scoring for the Bisons. 

After heading into the half with the lead, Manitoba stepped up the energetic play in the second half as they pushed hard to extend their lead with their playoff hopes on the line and needing a win. 

Lavarias nearly scored her second goal of the game on a smart play to get the ball behind the Victoria defenders, but Vikes goalkeeper Meaghan Storie got there first. Lavarias continued to be the spark plug for the Bison offence up the middle of the field.

Victoria continued to fight back, pressing their forwards quickly up the field on every possession and challenging the Bison backline with some great play. The Vikes had perhaps their best chance to tie at 62′, as Elise Butler crossed the ball into the box and Natalie Cavallin got a nice touch on the ball. Wilford got a hand on the shot and juggled it a few times in the air before hauling it down.

With the Bisons still clinging to their one goal lead, every Victoria scoring opportunity cranked the game’s intensity up to 11. Victoria continued to rack up corner opportunities in the second half and would load the Bison box with players each time, but Manitoba managed to nullify the threats.

The Victoria pressure continued as the Bisons were unable to clear the ball from their half. One Vikes corner opportunity crossed right in front of the Bison goal, with many yellow and white jerseys in the area.

After sitting for the first 20 minutes of the second half, Selina Speranza re-entered her final home game as a Bison with fresh legs. Almost immediately, she set up Lavarias for a great chance at 85′, but Storie was there with the save. The intensity continued to ramp up in the final minutes as the Vikes continued to press for the tying goal and the Bisons tried not to overextend themselves and stay composed on defence. 

The Vikes continued to earn corners in the final minutes of regulation and continued to press all their players forward in front of the Bison net. This opened an opportunity for Speranza, as she cleared the ball out of the Manitoba box and took off down the left sidelines, with the Vikes defenders trying to get back and cut her off.

Speranza covered nearly the full length of the field as she outraced the Vikes players and beat Storie to add to the Bisons lead, as well as cap her season and Bison career with one more goal that assured the Bisons a Canada West playoff berth. 

Looking forward to the playoffs, Manitoba is set to hit the road for a playoff matchup against the Calgary Dinos. The Vikes also qualified for the playoffs in the Pacific division, and shall prepare to face the Fraser Valley Cascades. 

Game MVPs:
Manitoba: #32 Hailey Lavarias
Victoria: #26 Stephanie Badilla Gutierrez

Shots
Manitoba: 9(7)
Victoria: 16(7)

Corners
Manitoba: 0
Victoria: 12

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