Vikes earn silver at the CIS Championships on home turf

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UVic’s field hockey pitch played host last weekend to the 2013 CIS National Championships. With the top seed, UVic looked poised to win their 12th national title since 1984. The host team is guaranteed a bid to the tournament, but that wasn’t enough for this young, scrappy Vikes squad. They wanted to earn their bid and make a run for the title.

They achieved their first goal by winning the Canada West banner, locking the number one spot down for nationals. Lynne Beecroft, head coach of the Vikes, attributes her team’s success to solid chemistry on and off the field.

“They are really hard workers, and they really enjoy each other’s company,” Beecroft said. With a young team, building a strong identity is paramount if you want to make a run for the title. By winning the Canada West banner, they gave themselves more than just the number one seed. They got a renewed sense of confidence knowing they could beat UBC.

The Vikes kicked off their tournament by defeating the number two seed Guelph Gryphons in a convincing manner, 3-0. The next day, the Vikes took care of the Waterloo Warriors 3-0. Second-year keeper Sheriden Goodmanson was phenomenal between the pipes, posting back-to-back shutouts against the two eastern contingencies.

There are several advantages to hosting the Championships, which gave the Vikes a leg up. In past host years, the team has stayed in a hotel in Victoria to keep everyone together and focused, but this year Beecroft opted to let the girls sleep in their own beds.

“We just asked our athletes to spend as much time with each other as possible during the tournament,” Beecroft said. “I trust them to do the right thing.”

With home-field advantage and the luxury of sleeping at home, the Vikes gave themselves the best possible chance to win this year. The Vikes just couldn’t overcome the firepower of the national-team-laden UBC Thunderbirds.

As Beecroft predicted, UBC was the toughest competition at the tournament. “They have several national team players and over 300 international appearances amongst them,” Beecroft said. “We have one girl who has four [international appearances].”

When UVic toppled UBC a few weeks ago at the Canada West Championships, UBC was missing several key national team additions. With those stars back in the lineup, the Thunderbirds were too much to handle; they thoroughly defeated the Vikes 4-2 in pool play.

On Championship Sunday at the UVic turf, UBC was certainly the stronger team. With the return of their national team players, UBC looked in-command the whole game. Their set plays off corners wreaked havoc on the young UVic defense, and UBC rolled to 4-1 victory.

The silver medal may sting now, but these young Vikes had a very strong season, capped off with an admirable finish at the CIS Championships. With over half the team in second or first year, this young bunch will no doubt be a huge threat for the McCrae Cup for the next few years at least.

Captain and veteran leader Kyla Kirby finished her five-year career with a silver medal and left a strong program in her departure. Her leadership was a key component to the Vikes’ success this season—an attribute coach Beecroft says was missing in past years.

“Last year, we were a little short on leaders,” Beecroft says. “We had 11 or 12 rookies and were missing a little in the leadership category, and this year we had enough.”

Kirby joins her teammates Kathleen Leahy and goalie Goodmanson as members of the 2013 CIS tournament all-stars. The top 11 players in the tournament included five UBC stars, three from UVic, two from Guelph and one from Waterloo.

The 2013 season drew to a close on Sunday in front of friends and family. Although the silver wasn’t the goal, this young Vikes team must be confident heading into the next couple seasons. The Vikes may not have come away with the gold, but the CIS experience, a first for many Vikes, will certainly prove valuable down the road.