TORONTO, ONTARIO – With the top-ranked teams in the U SPORTS weekly women’s soccer rankings, the Canada West Conference promises to provide some exciting matches in the quarter-final round of the playoffs.
After tight games, the Victoria Vikes and Regina Cougars saw progress in their play-in games against the UFV Cascades and Alberta Pandas, the second round of the postseason.
As the top teams enter the playoffs, 49 Sports is looking forward to the quarterfinal games on Friday and Saturday and the 2023 Canada West final, which UBC will host if Regina is defeated.
UBC is heavily favored against Regina
The UBC Thunderbirds enter their matchup against the Regina Cougars as impressive favorites, having won the Pacific Division with a 13-1-0 record on the back of a good team performance.
Led by Katalin Tolnay up front, the Thunderbirds have dynamic players all over the pitch, making their ability to keep the ball even more dangerous. At the same time, their wide players in transition areas allow them to regain their attacking rhythm after losing the ball. Either way, they are a difficult team to break.
While Tolnay’s 14 goals in as many games led the team, a midfield that includes veterans like Sophie Damien and Janika Sangha, complemented by younger players like Billy Doerksen and Taya Dennehy, is one of the conference’s most threatening players.
“I’m very excited about where our team is on offense and defense heading into the playoffs,” coach Jesse Simmons said. UBC Athletics. “We had some exceptional individual and team performances. The team feels fresh, ready to compete and excited to take the field.
The stable of center back duo of Jacqueline Terrier and Sarah Rollins in the first year has grown into one of the stingiest duos in Canada. They already have strong chemistry despite only one season. Meanwhile, Portugal U23 international Sophie Ferreria continues to impress at right-back.
UBC finished the Western Canada regular season atop most categories, scoring 45 goals while conceding just five goals over 14 games. They ranked second in shots allowed, with just 42, while goaltenders Leta Pillman and Dakota Pickett were solid when needed.
For the Regina Cougars, this is a massive test, but they won’t be shy coming off a torrid game, with a 4-3 win over the Alberta Pandas. As expected, Payton Enns will be crucial for Regina, as will Jessica Merck and goalkeeper Karina Anderson.
The Cougars weren’t stellar defensively, but Anderson’s big game and offensive contributions from Enz, who scored a hat-trick on the play, meant there was potential for head coach Astrid Baker and her group.
Limiting UBC’s play is no easy task for any U SPORTS opponent, but maintaining low block and defensive commitment could allow Regina to quickly find a goal and cause an upset. It’s a huge task, and UBC remains the favorite in the tie.
The two teams also met at this stage last season, with UBC winning 8-1.
Only one of TWU and Calgary can return to the U SPORTS Nationals
A Canada West team from last year’s U SPORTS Championship won’t move on to the national championship this season, but they will advance to an impressive Canada West quarterfinal.
For both sides, the playoff could mean the end of an era. For Calgary, this could be veteran Rachel Barlow’s final college game. Meanwhile, TWU may have to bid farewell to Canada Western’s Hannah Miller, Maddie Melnychuk and Sierra Halldorsson.
Unfortunately, the matchup creates an open opportunity for either side to secure their ticket to the Canada West Final Four. However, the TWU Spartans appear to be the favorite, even though the two teams tied 3-3 in their only regular season game in September. 16
The Spartans finished the season with a 9-2-3 record. They went on a seven-game winning streak before losing their final game of the regular season to the Victoria Vikes, a team that also gave UBC its only loss of the season.
Led by head coach Graham Roxburgh, the Spartans must create opportunities for sophomore forward Sophie Crowther, who finished the season with seven goals but has a knack for scoring in desperate situations. Much of that development will likely involve Melynchuk and Briana Buttar, who enjoyed a successful first year with TWU after transferring from the NCAA.
Likewise, Charity Field can provide attacking threats and could fancy herself a draw, having scored two goals in the regular season draw, two of her team-leading seven goals this season.
TWU has scored nine more goals than Calgary this season, finishing second in Western Canada with 39. Meanwhile, they were nearly identical defensively, conceding a second-placed eight goals in 14 games, one behind Calgary’s nine.
By playing a fluid style, TWU can exploit Calgary on a larger home field. However, dinosaurs have many similar characteristics that would make it difficult for them to get out.
Keeping the game low-scoring will be crucial for coach Diogo Raposo’s Dinos side, as 10 of their 14 regular season games ended with fewer than four goals in total and five were either tied or decided by one goal.
So, they will turn to veteran goalkeeper Katie French to stay strong and defenders Brooklyn Colvin, Mykenna Walker, and Jaden Tomaszewski, who have all proven valuable in stopping powerful attacks. At the same time, they will need significant contributions in both directions from Barlow and Sofia DiGiacomo.
The matchup could go either way for TWU and Calgary, as both teams have the potential to make an impact in the U SPORTS Championship if they get that far. However, their first step lies on Friday, hoping to advance to the Canada West quarterfinals.
Although this impact cannot be measured, the Spartans will also enter the playoffs as one of the younger teams in the country, introducing new Macron jerseys, replacing the old Adidas kits.
Victoria looks to continue a season of downing the Giants against McEwan
The Victoria Vikes have had a recipe for upsets this season, being the only team to beat the UBC Thunderbirds and the side to snap the TWU Spartans’ seven-game winning streak. Now they face another giant in Western Canada, the MacEwan Griffins, who are looking to continue their titanic season.
The two teams tied 1-1 in September. However, a lot has changed for both teams since then, with McEwan losing top forward Grace Mwasala to injury, and Saturday’s game scheduled to be played in sub-zero temperatures in Edmonton.
Victoria go into the match on the back of a thrilling play-in win against UFV Cascades, which saw Kylie Lidstone stand tall in the shootout after a 1-1 draw over 120 minutes.
Led by coach Tracy David, the Vikes will turn to Emma Skalek for their offensive prowess, as the first-year forward hopes to continue the form that has seen her in threatening positions in every game en route to a six-goal season.
While she was in that position before, Skalek and several other Vikes have been playing competitive games since May, when she had a strong season in the BC Premier League for Nanaimo’s Harborside FC – and that rhythm and intensity has undoubtedly helped Victoria in 2023.
Victoria hasn’t advanced to the Canada West Final Four since 2017 but fielded its strongest team since then in 2023. Coincidentally, the last time the Vikes won a Final Four game was against MacEwan.
Outside of Skalek, Robbie Nicholas and Erin Jensen will be key players in the game, with the latter scoring a team-leading seven goals. The duo also scored 10 and 9 points, completing the offensive trio alongside Skalek.
On the other side of the equation, this should be a game they emerge victorious in, especially after they performed well after losing promising striker Grace Mwasala to injury. In the last four games, the Griffins have seen five different scorers, including Alex Henderson,
Anneke Odinga, Brenna Paquin, Hannah Harper, and Grace Schimpf, making them unpredictable offensive threats.
Meanwhile, the Griffins also enter the playoffs with tremendous experience, with a core returning from a 2021 U SPORTS title, as well as a young group mentored by veteran leaders.
Captain Hannah Supina will be crucial in keeping things calm on the defensive end and providing the ball to MacEwan’s attacking talents while also getting good form in the game.
“We’re excited about this; we’ve been waiting for this all season, we knew we would get to this point, and now we’re going through our plan in preparation.” Supina pushes McEwan for athletics. “Victoria is definitely a brave team. They are working very hard, but we are definitely ready.”
The two have faced off twice in the Canada West playoffs, with their last post-season meeting in 2019. However, Saturday’s matchup is a fairly open contest, one that still favors a determined Griffins team.
Individual bids will likely be decided by Saskatchewan, UBCO
The Saskatchewan Huskies and UBC Okanagan Heat reach the quarterfinals as two programs on the rise and two teams with strong chances to win the matchup. Although many of the other quarterfinals are close, this one is almost impossible to decide.
Powered by leading scorer Stephanie Young, the UBCO Heat had a strong start to the season, with Young leading the nation in scoring in points. However, they fell behind in the lead but still finished with 14 goals, tied for the conference lead.
Meanwhile, the Huskies have shown tremendous growth this season under coach Jerson Barandika Hamilton, who has helped raise the level of Prairie Division football this season, presenting a complete challenge for McEwan.
In their only game of the season, the Heat prevailed thanks to Young’s hat-trick, as the third-year attacking midfielder has lifted UBCO’s game all season, turning them into a fringe contender.
Both teams are dealing oddly, with UBCO scoring 30 and Saskatchewan 28, while the Huskies have a huge advantage defensively, conceding just 12 goals compared to the Heat’s 20. However, UBCO played most of its matches in the more challenging Pacific Division. .
While Young is undoubtedly the difference-maker in the game, the Heat will also look to Abigail Taneda, who has hit her stride as a playmaker this season.
Meanwhile, UBCO coach Craig Smith will have to keep his group concerned about Saskatchewan’s deep presence, led by Namie Nguyen, Jade Hovanh and Marie Kilcher, an offensive trio that has scored six goals each, accounting for two-thirds of the Huskies’ goals. .
Neither side is the favorite in the draw. However, both are match-changing players who can attract fans and produce a result with individual performances.
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