EDMONTON – An early goal by the No. 6 University of Victoria Vikes was the difference in a hard-fought game, Sunday afternoon at Foote Field, between the visitors and the No. 8 University of Alberta Pandas.

Senior midfielder Stephanie Badilla Gutierrez scored unassisted in the ninth minute while third-year goaltender Puck Louwes earned her conference-leading eighth shutout.

Fourth-year netminder Rebecca Reif endured her first loss of the season but made four saves in a losing effort.

The now 8-1-3 Vikes claimed a much-needed win to keep pace with the Pacific division-leading Trinity Western Spartans, who hold a 10-2-0 record, while also staying ahead of the third-place and 7-2-3 UBC Thunderbirds. The Pandas have a decently healthy five-point lead in the Prairie Division standings with two games left, so they are likely to claim the regular season title, which would allow them to host the Canada West Final Four if they get through the quarter-final round.

Victoria had a flurry of chances in the opening minutes, team-leading goal scorer Kiara Kilbeyfiring a shot off the woodwork before fourth-year defender Katie Carrothers‘ rebound got stymied by Reif.

The momentum by the road team built to the game’s only goal, coming off a free kick about five yards out from the 18-yard box, Gutierrez curling her shot inside the near post for her third goal of the season.

Alberta attempted to reply quickly, but the Vikes’ defence blocked shots or forced shots wide, giving Victoria the 1-0 lead going into halftime.

The Pandas, who have led the conference in shots for almost the entire season, could rarely find a way through that stingy Vikes’ defence core in the second half, having perhaps the best opportunity in the 58th minute when fourth-year forward Sydney Daines fired a shot off the near post in tight. 

In the dying moments of the game, third-year midfielder Morgan Corbett had another great chance right in the penalty kick area, the Edmonton, Alta. native firing just wide to keep the home team off the board and cement the win for Victoria.

Alberta will now finish their season by heading south to face off against the Mount Royal Cougars and the Calgary Dinos, while the Vikes head back home to host the Trinity Western Spartans and Fraser Valley Cascades. Both teams will move forward to the post-season the following weekend.

SCORING                          1     2     FINAL
Victoria (8-1-3)                   1     0     1
ALB (8-2-2)                        0     0     0

Victoria: #25 Elise Butler
ALB: #4 Sydney Daines