University of the Fraser Valley women’s soccer coach Rob Giesbrecht is well aware of the enormity of the challenge his team faces as it hits the road to face the Alberta Pandas in the Canada West quarter-finals on Saturday.
The No. 2-seeded Pandas have lost just one game all season, and thumped the No. 7 Cascades 4-1 at their Edmonton campus back on Sept. 21.
It’s a stiff test, to be sure, but Giesbrecht likely wouldn’t want to switch places with Alan Errington, his counterpart with the UFV men’s soccer squad, in light of what he must endure this week.
The Cascades men wrapped up their regular season schedule last weekend with a pair of incredibly clutch victories – 2-1 over the Calgary Dinos on Friday and 4-1 over the Lethbridge Pronghorns on Saturday – to improve to 6-7-1 for 19 points, good for third place in the Pacific Division of Canada West.
The thing is, the fourth-place Trinity Western Spartans (4-6-2, 14 points) still have two games remaining – they take on Calgary and Lethbridge on the road this weekend, and could overtake UFV for the final Pacific Division playoff berth if they win both. Any tie or loss, though, and the Cascades are in.
It’s a gut-wrenching thing when your team doesn’t control its own fate, but Errington is taking a philosophical approach.
“Expect the worst, hope for the best,” he said with a chuckle. “You can worry and do all the permutations, but at the end of the day . . . the league will decide itself.
“We train this week, we just keep plodding on, and we wait and see what happens.”
That said, Errington admitted it’s easy to go back and rue games where his team dropped points during the season. In particular, a 1-1 draw vs. UNBC on Sept. 29 (a game in which UFV fired 30 shots to the T-Wolves’ six) and a 1-0 road loss to the Winnipeg Wesmen on Sept. 12 stand out.
“It’s disappointing, because we’ve had a good season inasmuch as we played quite well in a lot of the games,” he said, alluding to a 1-0 win over the defending national champs from UBC on Sept. 8. “But we’ve really had problems scoring goals this year.
“We’ve created lots of chances, they’re just not going in.”
As for the UFV women, Giesbrecht said his team has to be mentally prepared to handle Alberta’s speedy strikers, and stressed the importance of a good start to the game.
“We have to start with more intention rather than hope,” he said.
“We probably played our worst game of the year out there, and we can get some redemption by giving a good account of ourselves a putting them under a lot of pressure.”