CFAX 1070 host and anthem singer Al Ferraby welcomed droves of fans to Centennial Stadium on Saturday night for the home opener of the UVic women’s soccer team, with a distinct finish to O Canada as he gutturally led the crowd in a final “For Thee”, generating excitement that the UVic and UBC sides transferred into their play.
The match started with strong passing and team cohesion from the T-Birds alongside moments of danger as a result of strong counterattacks on an apprehensive UVic defense. Despite favourable UBC possession, they achieved only one shot on net that drew a strong save from UVic keeper Meaghan Storie.
By the 15-minute mark, UVic appeared to regain their footing with UVic veteran Carlita Branion-Calles slotting an ambitious, chipped through ball to fourth year standout Emma Greig, who brought the difficult ball down to give herself an open shot at net that trickled by the outside post. Although no goal was scored for the Vikes, the skilful play galvanized the crowd and chants of “Let’s Go UVic!” echoed around Centennial Stadium (and presumably nearby neighbourhoods).
The Vikes fed off this energy when they finally broke into the box score at 37:31 into the first half. Greig proved a catalyst once more when she outmuscled the UBC centre-back to get onto a ball metres from the Thunderbirds’ six-yard box. Though hundreds of anxious fans screamed for her to shoot, she instead centred the ball to Jaclyn Sawicki, a player with a Canadian National Team cap, who confidently finished giving the Vikes a 1-0 lead. Head Coach Tracy David attributed the low-scoring half to UBC’s defending of UVic’s strong midfield saying, “Credit to UBC who stopped our strong midfield from getting the ball.”
The fans were in for an exciting game when UBC’s Taylor Shannik, off a costly UVic turnover, launched the equalizer from 20 yards just over Storie’s fingertips and under the crossbar early in the second half. When questioned after the game as to what the team could improve on, David admitted, “We need to stop gifting goals as a team.” Compounding the tense atmosphere, Sawicki could not capitalize on a penalty kick awarded to UVic when Greig was fouled in the box by UBC sophomore, Aman Shergill. Coach David complimented her team’s perseverance despite this setback: “We worked hard for each other even after the penalty save. We worked well as a unit.”
Anxious Vikes fans were relieved on a Vikes corner in the 77th minute. Vikes defender Lindsay Machin nodded a header home off a gorgeous corner kick to the far post by third year forward, Sarah Douglas. The arcing trajectory gave the crowd time to rise in anticipation and cheer that much louder as it splashed into the side netting, which left the Vikes at 2-1 and victorious.