VANCOUVER – The University of Victoria Vikes women’s field hockey team are out of the race for U SPORTS medal this season following a 2-1 loss to the UBC Thunderbirds on Oct. 8 in Vancouver. With the loss the Vikes fall to a 2-3-1 record, while the T-Birds are 5-0-1 and ultimately clinch the Canada West Championship for 2017. The U SPORTS championship is decided in a best-of-three series between the Canada West champion and OUA champion.

Despite the scoreline the Vikes had a strong performance, carrying the game to a tie until a late counter-attack gave UBC the game-winning goal in the 68th minute. UBC struck first in the 22nd minute thanks to forward Margaret Pham, while the Vikes equalized in the second half thank to Vikes rookie Anna Mollenhauer on a penalty Corner. UBC goaltender Rowan Harris was sensational in the UBC goal, outduelling UVic keepers Larissa Piva and Robin Fleming, who split the duties in the Vikes’ net.

“I think we had some glorious scoring opportunities today and obviously they have a national team keeper in net and that makes all the difference,” said Vikes head coach Lynne Beecroft, of UBC keeper Harris, who has 20 internationals with the Canadian senior team. “Sometimes you can get not a lot of shots but we generated a lot of opportunities again today but she is a very good goalie and she made some really key saves.”

The young Vikes did well to match up the powerhouse T-Birds, who will vye for their seventh-straight U SPORTS championship this year. UBC’s youth is deceiving as they boast probably the most lethal group of rookies including Thora Rae and Jordyn Faiczak, both with senior national team caps, while junior national team stand out Sara Goodman is next on the list for the call up to the senior squad. The Thunderbirds have also enjoyed the talents of defender Hanaa Punja who led the U18 BC team to a silver medal at nationals this year, while rookie twins Kaitlin and Kaileigh Chow gave Crofton House School incredible success in AA provincial play the last three years.

The Thunderbirds opened the scoring in the 22nd minute when Pham finished off a beautiful tic-tac-toe passing play after the ‘Birds had rushed up field.

UVic made the final third of the game very interesting when their dynamic defender Mollenhauer converted a penalty corner in the 53rd minute.

Needing an outright victory to keep their hopes of winning the Canada West title alive, the Vikes pushed everyone forward in the game’s dying minutes. Hayden made them pay by niftily converting a UBC counter-attack.

“I’m really proud of this team because I said yesterday we could either win or learn and I think they learned from yesterday and they played well enough to at least get the tie but it is what it is and UBC put the ball in the back of the net,” added Beecroft. “Obviously for years to come I am excited to see where this group goes but we still obviously rely on our fourth-year vets but everyone contributed well today. We moved the ball better and we had scoring opportunities and just didn’t capitalize.”

UVic will host the Calgary Dinos for their final regular season games on Oct. 21-22 in Victoria. The U SPORTS field hockey championships will be held at UBC on November 3, 4 and 5.