Ali Baggott, Vikes Communications
VICTORIA – It was a must-win game and fifth-year forward Delaney Booker's touch sealed it for the University of Victoria Vikes who came away with a 1-0 win over UBC on Sunday. The game was as tight as to be expected between the two perennial powers. The Thunderbirds are the seven-time defending national champions, while the Vikes, who have 11 titles to their name, have not hoisted a banner since 2008.
Today's win is the first victory over UBC for the Vikes since 2015 and two players were key in that result. Booker's redirection put the Vikes up 1-0 in the 40th minute but second-year keeper Robin Fleming stymied a UBC penalty stroke in the latter of the second half to protect the win.
"We played really well, together and put a solid 70 minutes in," said Booker, one of five seniors on the team. "I'm pretty excited and I know the other seniors are as well. This is what we have been wanting from last year with the change in format to nationals. I think this year we have really pushed hard and are going to do it this year."
For the Thunderbirds, keeper Rowan Harris made several saves to keep the Vikes at bay and defender Sara Goodman was pivotal guarding the circle perimeter. Margaret Pham was once again the most offensive threat for the Thunderbirds, while her defensive contributions on penalty corners denied the Vikes any set-piece opportunities.
Similar to yesterday's grudge match the Vikes and Thunderbirds were square in the opening half of the game. Chances were slim for both teams but Victoria had the first penalty corner of the game in the 14th minute. Anna Mollenhauer's shot from the top was blocked by UBC's Pham and the follow up shot went high and wide of the goal.
The Thunderbirds had their first go at goal in the 22nd minute when Kaitlin Chow was the benefactor of a quick free hit and her individual skills gave her an open look at net but her quick attempt was blocked. Moments later Pham had a similar back-hand shot at net that was blocked again from the top of the circle.
Both teams had chances to score as UBC had back-to-back penalty corners taken by Goodman. Both were disrupted by the Vikes defence. Right down the other end the Vikes had a corner chance of their own but Mollenhauer's shot on her back hand went wide of the goal. The game remained scoreless at the break.
In the second half the Vikes were able to find forward Sam McCrory in at the penalty stroke mark. The first year curled tight and beat her defender but her quick shot on goal was turned away by UBC defender Hanaa Punja.
The Vikes finally got the break they needed on a quick free hit from outside the 23-yard area. First-year Vike Anso Hannes blasted a flat ball in to the circle that was effortlessly redirected by Booker for the 1-0 Vikes lead.
In the 49th minute UBC's captain, Emily Martin, was forced to sit for a yellow card but her team seemed to find a renewed energy while down a player. The Thunderbirds earned multiple penalty corner options in succession.
An option from Goodman to Pham down on the baseline resulted in a penalty stroke call after Pham's shot was stopped by the body of a Vikes defender. Vikes netminder Fleming stood tall making the stick save on Pham's penalty stroke to protect the home side's advantage.
"When Robin made that stick save on the stroke I don't think I have ever jumped that high in my life," recounted Booker. "It was amazing and then Emily (Wong) running out one on the short corners blocking UBC and we just held it together. There was a lot of emotion out there."
UBC poured on the pressure in the final moments of the game but the Vike back line of Judy Cristante, Emily Wong, Kristina Walters-Shumka and Mollenhauer showed great composure to keep the game 1-0 in favour of Victoria.
The win puts a nationals berth back in the hands of the Vikes, as all Victoria needs now is two wins over Calgary to qualify for the U SPORTS best-of-three national championship held in Ontario in November. UBC will need to beat Calgary twice and rely on Calgary to upset the Vikes next weekend for a qualifying shot.
The Vikes will prepare to host the Calgary Dinos for two games, Oct. 13-14, while UBC will break until the Dinos visit Vancouver, Oct. 20-21.
40' VIC – Delaney Booker FG, 1-0 UVIC
VIC – Robin Fleming, 70 MP, 0 GA
UBC – Rowan Harris, 70 MP, 1 GA
49' – UBC - #7 Emily Martin, YC