Women’s soccer upsets early at Nationals, finishes fifth

UBC women’s soccer bounced back from a disappointing quarterfinal loss to finish fifth place at U Sports nationals in Quebec City last weekend.

The number one overall seed T-Birds entered Nationals as favourites after coasting to the Canada West title. Despite their high seed, Thursday’s quarterfinal had the T-Birds facing a tricky number opponent in the Laval University Rouge et Or: the tournament hosts and a team that had only lost two matches all season.

In front of a vocal home crowd at Telus Stadium, the T-Birds continued their habit of hot starts with an opener inside four minutes. Sophie Damian made a great late run into the box to tap in a Katalin Tolnai flicked header to give the T-Birds an early lead.

Laval immediately switched on after going behind and controlled the balance of play for the rest of the half. UBC goalkeeper Sarah Johns was forced into six saves, while Catherine Fortier also hit the post for the Rouge et Or. Despite Laval’s chances, UBC went into halftime up 1–0.

UBC’s lead only lasted three minutes into the second half, as Daphnée Blouin’s cross to the back post found Léa-Jeanne Fortier, who headed the ball in to tie the match at 1–1. Laval continued to create chances the rest of the match while frustrating UBC’s usually potent attack; the Rouge et Or had outshot UBC 28–12 by full time. UBC’s best chance to find a winner fell to Nisa Reehal, whose shot was closed down well by Laval goalkeeper Myriam Labrecque. With the score still tied after 90 minutes and a further 30 minutes of extra time, the match headed to penalty kicks, a first for UBC on the season.

After Tolnai and Ella Sunde both scored, Dakota Chan was denied by a brilliant save from Labrecque to give Laval the advantage in the shootout. Ahead 4–3 in the last round of kicks, Mégane Darchen held her nerve to blast her penalty down the middle and send the Rouge et Or into the semifinals.

The T-Birds rebounded in Friday’s consolation match against the York University Lions. Ella Nuttall-Smith and Ava Alexander both took advantage of starts and scored in the first half before Nia Fleming-Thompson halved the deficit for York. Danielle Steer and Sunde added goals in the second half to seal a comfortable 4–1 victory for the T-Birds and send them to Sunday’s consolation final.

Sunday’s match for fifth place saw the T-Birds face their local rivals, the Trinity Western University Spartans, in a rematch of the Canada West final. With nothing to lose and coming off of a heated encounter the previous week, both teams fielded strong lineups and played an end-to-end game. UBC’s goalkeeper Dakota Beckett, and her Spartans counterpart Hannah Miller, each made eight saves as both teams created several good chances throughout the 90 minutes. The Spartans came closest when Jessica Vance controlled a free-kick and fired toward the goal, but Emma Hooton made a fantastic block on the goalline to keep the game scoreless.

In her final match as a T-Bird, Steer ended her career on a high note by scoring the winner in the 70th minute. The Canada West all-time points leader settled a loose ball in the Trinity Western box and fired one into the bottom corner for the game’s only goal. The final whistle confirmed fifth place for UBC, and perhaps more importantly, a fourth consecutive win over their rivals this season.

Laval would ultimately go on to reach the final, where they lost 1–0 to their Quebec rivals, the Université de Montréal Carabins.