The Vikes (4-1) will face the top-seeded University of Calgary Dinos (5-0) Sunday in the conference championship for the second straight year Sunday afternoon at McMahon Stadium. Kickoff is set for 12 p.m. and can be watched live on CanadaWest.tv.
Lethbridge will play UBC for the bronze medal Sunday at 10 a.m., and while only the winner of Sunday’s gold medal tilt will advance to the U SPORTS national championships, the Pronghorns’ season will continue as host of the national tournament Nov. 2-5.
In their regular season match-up, the Vikes defeated the Pronghorns 59-20. They entered the tournament as the No. 2 seed, after dropping their final regular season game to Calgary, 34-22, yet the Vikes outscored their regular season opponents 245-54. The Pronghorns entered the tournament as the third seed after posting a 2-2 regular season record. However, this match was a virtual stalemate from start to finish.
The game started with both teams trading tries in the early going as the Vikes drew first blood seven minutes into the match thanks to a try by Kara Galbraith. The Pronghorns responded at the 14th minute, thanks to strong play off a ruck. The Horns overpowered the Vikes and were able to move the ball past the try line for the try, thanks to Abigial Duguid.
Just when it looked as if the Pronghorns were outplaying the Vikes, the Vikes responded with back to back tries at the 37th and 40th minutes to take a 17-7 lead into halftime.
“Those were huge for us going into halftime,” said Vikes Head Coach Brittany Waters. “The first 20 minutes were a struggle for us and we weren’t necessarily ready for the aggression that Lethbridge was playing with. The fact that we were able to go into halftime with that score was really helpful for us.”
The second half saw both teams pressure the other, with multiple scoring opportunities from each team. Strong defense within the 22-metre line from both teams led to a scoreless second half leading into the 70th minute.
Second half scoring opened when the Pronghorns were awarded a penalty kick at the 70th minute, after pressing the Vikes deep into their territory. Caitlin Sears was able to capitalize on the penalty goal, trimming the Vikes lead to 17-10 with 10 minutes to play. A couple minutes later, the Vikes were awarded a penalty kick of their own, and Jess Neilson converted to restore the Vikes 10-point lead.
The match was not over yet as three minutes later, the Pronghorns scored a try thanks to a strong effort by Sarah Cline to put the game within reach once again. However, the match would finish with the Vikes taking the 20-17 victory to move on to play the Dinos in the gold medal match.
“We had a very successful season to start, and then from there, we’ve had harder and harder competition to face,” explained Waters. “It’s taken us a little longer than I expected to be ready for those games. The games are a bit tighter…but we didn’t give up the whole game and that is what we had to do in order to win this game.”
Lethbridge head coach Neil Langevin was proud of his team’s effort.
“I’m really proud of our girls competitiveness today,” he said. “We needed to make our tackles against a very talented team. I thought we were very unfortunate to have the questionable try at the beginning of the game, but from there on in, our girls battled hard…credit to UVic, they are a very strong team and the Canada West finals should be a very good game.”
Despite the loss, the Pronghorns have a lot of positives to build on as they prepare not only for the bronze medal match, but the national championships, which they will host in two weeks.
“We can take a belief that we can compete with some very good teams. That belief is going to help us as we have the skill, and the athleticism. Now we just need to continue to believe and achieve.”
VIC – Kara Galbraith try, 4′, 5-0 VIC
LETH – Abigail Duguid try, 14′ (Caitlin Sears convert), 7-5 LETH
VIC –Chanelle Edwards-Challenger try, 37′, 10-7 VIC
LETH – Caitlin Sears penalty, 70′ , 17-10 VIC
VIC – Jess Neilson penalty, 73′, 20-10 VIC
LETH – Sarah Cline try 76′ (Caitlin Sears convert), 20-17 VIC