With the Canada West women’s soccer season shut down by COVID-19, the UFV Cascades have found a different way to play.
UFV has joined the Trinity Western Spartans, UBC Thunderbirds and Whitecaps FC Girls Elite in a four-team cohort, and have seven exhibition games scheduled this fall.
The first was Friday night as UFV dropped a 3-0 road game to Trinity Western at an empty Chase Office Field in Langley.
The host Spartans got goals from Sierra Halldorson, Kathryn Harvey and Elizabeth Hicks. The Cascades generated some good scoring chances, only to be thwarted by TWU goalkeeper Hannah Miller.
“I think every single player was extremely excited,” said Niko Marcina, who coached his first game as the Cascades’ interim head coach. “I think we were collectively anxious, but we were also loving the fact that we were back together again. We’ve created this family first atmosphere that every single player has invested and bought into, so the fact that we could just come to the field together as one meant the world, not only to myself but to the players.
“It was bittersweet. It was fantastic that we got to compete. The result is what it is – we played against a top team in Canada.”
Veteran goalkeeper Joven Sandhu (Surrey) sparkled for the Cascades in the first half, but Halldorson got the Spartans on the board in the 25th minute, running onto a through ball and slotting a shot into the bottom corner to Sandhu’s left.
UFV had a great chance to equalize late in the half, as rookie Jasdeep Dhaliwal (Surrey) dashed in from the left and squared the ball to Sarah Parker (Surrey), but her rising shot was tipped over the bar by Miller.
Miller was called upon again early in the second half – UFV’s Jenna Mele (Coquitlam) slipped a pass to Simi Lehal (Surrey), who turned and fired, but the TWU goalkeeper dove to her right to get a palm on the ball and push it outside the post. Off the ensuing corner, the ball came to Brittany Costa (Delta) at the left edge of the box, and her blast went over the outstretched fingertips of a leaping Miller but just over the bar.
Shortly thereafter, Harvey gave the Spartans some breathing room with a great individual effort and five minutes later, Hicks made it 3-0 off a set piece.
Costa said that the opportunity for game-play “meant a lot to our entire team.”
“We’ve been training in pods, and yesterday was our first day back together,” she noted. “So playing a game within 24 hours of that, it felt like a brand-new team almost because we’d been separated for so long. It felt like we’d overcome so much adversity as a team, and played a really good first game.
“We’re adapting to a new playing style, and I think we took that and implemented exactly what the coaches wanted. So from that aspect, I think it was a really good performance.”
The UFV soccer roster includes Chilliwackians Katie Lampen and Melissa Palmer.
The Cascades are back in action next Saturday, Oct. 24, on the road at UBC.
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