UBC women’s soccer are Canada West champions for the 16th time in program history after a 2–1 win in the final over the Trinity Western University Spartans at Thunderbird Stadium.
The T-Birds breezed through the Canada West regular season, securing the top seed for the playoffs with a 13–1 record and a league-best goal differential. Seven UBC players also earned conference all-star honours, including Canada West Player of the Year Danielle Steer, who broke the Canada West record for career points in a win over the University of the Fraser Valley in October.
First up in the Final Four was Friday’s semifinal against the University of Calgary Dinos. The T-Birds made a perfect start when star striker Katalin Tolnai took a feed from Nisa Reehal and unleashed a strike into the bottom corner in the second minute.
UBC doubled their lead in the 13th minute when a great ball over the top from Ella Sunde sent Reehal in behind, and she put it on a plate for Tolnai to fire in her second. Tolnai completed her quick hat trick in the 17th minute after she slotted in a cross from Sophia Ferreira. The onslaught continued after Steer won and scored a penalty in the 21st minute to give UBC a commanding lead at the half.
The T-Birds were content to see out the result in the second half. Emma Hooton and Rebecca Morgan both made key tackles to keep out the Dinos attack and seal a 4–0 final score, confirming UBC’s place in Saturday’s final and a spot at U Sports Nationals. It was a dose of revenge for the T-Birds, whose only loss of the season came at the hands of the Dinos in a 3–2 defeat in September.
“To step on them early that way, you couldn't have written it better for us," said head coach Jesse Symons on his team’s semifinal victory. “I thought the first 20 minutes was a tidal wave … overall it was fantastic.”
Saturday’s final would see UBC pitted against the number two seed Trinity Western Spartans. Spurred on by a vocal home crowd, the T-Birds came out firing in the opening minutes once again. Tolnai got a breakaway from a Ferreira through ball in the fifth minute, and the Canada West top scorer made no mistake to give the T-Birds an early lead.
Sophie Damian continued her brilliant form in the playoffs to make it 2–0 UBC in the 26th minute after she shrugged off a Spartans defender to control a loose ball off of a freekick and fire in at the near post. Ferreira nearly added a third when she shot just wide following a brilliant through ball from Damian, but UBC would still go into the half leading by two goals.
Trinity Western improved after halftime and halved the deficit from a set piece in the 58th minute. Holland Stiel headed a deep corner back across the goal for Sierra Halldorson to turn in. TWU controlled possession for the majority of the second half as they searched for the tying goal, but the UBC backline held firm throughout. The Spartans’ best chance to equalize came when Kylie Hendricks shot from outside the box, but T-Birds goalkeeper Sarah Johns saved it comfortably.
The final whistle sparked emphatic celebrations from the T-Birds and their fans before team captain Danielle Steer lifted the Canada West trophy.
“This was important to us, we lost the last two Canada West championships, and this was our number one target for sure,” said Symons, delighted with his team’s performance on the night and across the whole Canada West campaign.
“The players through and through worked so hard for this. They came and competed every game, and we got the best out of every team every game. We were able to come out on top and full credit to them. They were phenomenal.”
The T-Birds will now travel to Quebec City for the U Sports national championship, held from November 10–13. The T-Birds are the number one seed at Nationals and will face hosts Laval University in their opening match. The team is now only three wins away from securing UBC’s eighth national championship in women’s soccer.