Vikes outlast Laval in shootout thriller

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VICTORIA – The UVic Vikes women’s soccer team showed absolute nerves of steel in an exciting shootout victory over the No. 1 seed Laval Rouge et Or to advance to the consolation final at the U SPORTS National Championship on Nov. 10.

“I’m really happy with the performance of our players, it was a great response by us after the disappointment of yesterday,” said Vikes head coach Tracy David. “I am really proud of our players.”

After 90 minutes of intense back and forth action resulted in a 0-0 tie, the Vikes and Rouge et Or were forced to go to penalty kicks to decide the game and it was the team from Victoria that stepped up to the spot and weathered the pressure.

Rachel Baird scored first to star the shootout. After Laval responded with a goal of their own, Stephanie Badilla Gutierrez fired a low shot into the net to restore the Vikes lead.

From then on out, the Vikes first team All-Canadian goalkeeper Puck Louwes shut the door in style. Louwes stymied two straight Laval strikes and with a successful convert by Victoria Wulffbetween the back-to-back stops from Louwes, all of the pressure shifted to the shoulders of first-year Vike Brea Christie.

The rookie right back, who has started every single game for the Vikes this season, calmly stutter-stepped her way up to the ball before putting it past Marie-Joelle Vandal in the Rouge et Or net, to send the Vikes to victory and extend their season by one more game.

The Vikes were out shot 9-2 in the game but their strong bend-but-don’t-break defensive mentality allowed the team to deny the Rouge et Or on multiple goal-scoring opportunities.

“Today you saw a team that was really resilient and tough, like we have been all year,” said David. “We are backstopped by Puck and she had a tremendous game. I’m really happy for her and the rest of our players that we put in a good solid performance.”

Louwes made four saves in regulation and two in the shootout as she was named player of the game after the contest.

The two teams traded scoring chances in the first half as they both started the game with intensity, looking to extend their season by one more game.

The Vikes had most of the pressure early and their best two scoring chances came in a two-minute span halfway through the opening frame.

Second-year forward Georgia Bignold controlled a pass played into her on the edge of the 18-yard box and did well to unleash a shot on net but Vandal stretched low to her right to make the save.

Just one minute later the Vikes nearly took the lead from a set-piece when  Badilla Gutierrez whipped a dangerous ball into the box that just bounced in the six-yard box before eluding both the Laval defenders and the Vikes attackers.

The Rouge et Or took control of the game in the latter stages of the first half but a combination of steady hands from Louwes and some strong defence kept the game scoreless at the end of the first half.

The teams traded chances throughout the second half but it was the Rouge et Or who looked more threatening. Only the crossbar stopped Laval from taking the lead in the 54th minute and Louwes had to come out of her net to charge down a breakaway opportunity in the 73rd, but once again the Vikes defence held strong.

“We were playing the defending national champions, Laval is a quality team and really it’s an honour to play against them,” said David. “You can figure out how good you really are when you play against the best.”

The win sends the Vikes to U SPORTS National Championship consolation final, where they will play either the Western Mustangs or the Manitoba Bisons on Sunday, Nov. 12 at 8 a.m., with fifth-place in the nation up for grabs.

“We are making the best of a tough situation,” said David. “We didn’t have the performance the we so badly wanted to have yesterday but we want to take away something from this championship and we will be gunning for the win for sure.”

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