VICTORIA – Following an exciting media launch for the Legends Cup series on Aug. 28, the University of Victoria Vikes women’s soccer team are ready to open the inaugural rivalry match-up with their foes from across the water this weekend. Head coach Tracy David and the Vikes will host the UBC Thunderbirds to open the 2018 Canada West season on Sept. 1 at 2:00 p.m. at Centennial Stadium.

Following an exciting 2017 campaign where the Vikes went on to beat the reigning national champions, Laval, and ultimately finish fifth at U SPORTS Nationals, this year’s team will have to do without some key graduating players. The Vikes spent their pre-season re-connecting following the loss of stalwart defender Elise Butler, play maker Emily Lieuwen and the paced attack of Stephanie Badilla Gutierrez.

“Pre-season has gone well for us,” remarked David about the August games against opponents including Vancouver Island University, Peninsula College and Western Washington. “I would have liked to have more competitive games in our pre-season but it’s tough to get a lot of good quality competition over here. I know that UBC has had a very fantastic pre-season in terms of the teams they have played. They played lots of NCAA Division 1 schools so they are going to be rocking and rolling of course but we are going to be ready to go.”

Despite the loss of a trio of veterans, the UBC Thunderbirds will also have their share of re-grouping including managing the graduation of forward Jasmin Dhanda, last season’s U SPORTS Player of the Year, who led UBC to two conference titles, a U SPORTS banner in 2015 and set a Canada West record for most career points (65). Thunderbirds head coach Jesse Symons also graduated forward Aman Shergill, keeper Marlee Maracle and defender Brienna Shaw.

“(UBC) are going to be different for sure and not different in a negative way just different,” noted David about the T-Birds’ graduating players. “It’s going to be a whole new look that they bring to the table so that is going to be interesting for us to see.”

The Vikes have an exciting freshman class that includes forwards and Alberta natives Mackenzie Ringrose and Ali Martin. Also bolstering the lineup will be island athletes Emma Dewitt, of Cowichan, and Reynolds Secondary graduates Abby MacKenzie and Annalyn Kind, as well as Calgary’s Eryn Libert-Scott.

As far as experience goes, the Vikes boast last season’s top goalkeeper in now fourth year Puck Louwes. Louwes had 10 conference shut outs last season and allowed just six goals in 14 regular season games. The U SPORTS First Team All-Canadian went 1080 minutes of action letting in just one goal throughout the 2017 campaign towards the Canada West semifinals. Louwes was also the 2017 UVic Female Co-Athlete of the Year.

“We also have two core fifth year players,” highlighted David. “Katie Carrothers will anchor our back and last year Caitlin Millham was our second-leading goal scorer. We are looking to both of them to get us through this and lead us through this very, very important fixture coming up.”

David was a highlight of the Legends Cup launch earlier this week, speaking boldly about the rivalry that fuels this new series between UBC and UVic across six men’s and women’s varsity sports. The annual match ups will cumulate points and at the end of the year the athletics director of the losing school will present the Legends Cup trophy at the athletics banquet of the winning school.

“I won’t have to say a lot on Saturday because even the first years understand this rivalry,” said David. “That’s how significant this game is. That’s what our focus is. They will be ready to play. I have no doubt about that.”

The Vikes and UBC women’s soccer game this weekend, Sept. 1, will be the inaugural match of the entire series.

“This is the game,” emphasized David in her compelling speech at the Legends Cup launch on behalf of Vikes coaches. “UBC brings out the best in us always. They are tough. They are physical. They are competitive. It is the one game that our team looks forward to all year and it is the one game we love to win. At a time where we are competing against each other for recruits, and money and for status, at the end of the day it all comes down to the competition. Whether it is a game or a race, the desire and passion to excel exceeds anything else.”

“We will always put our best foot forward because this rivalry is etched in to the very fabric of our souls.”