Aneesa Heatherington, UBC Thunderbirds
VANCOUVER – The UBC Thunderbirds capped off their season with a 1-0 victory over the Calgary Dinos Sunday at Wright Field, but the single goal wasn't enough to propel the 'Birds to the national championship series to defend their seven straight U SPORTS titles.
With the Canada West champion earning a berth to the best-of-three national final, a third tiebreaker was needed to separate UBC and Victoria, which both finished with a 4-1-3 record and 15 points at the conclusion of league play Sunday.
The 'Birds and Vikes went 1-1-2 against each other and had the same goal differential in those contests. The final tiebreaker in the Canada West regulations was goal differential in all league games. After a 1-0 triumph Saturday, UBC needed to win by seven in order to keep its season alive, but came up short.
The Vikes will travel to Ontario to play the OUA champion in a best-of-three series in the hopes of bringing back the program's 12th national banner and what would be the first since 2008.
After her first year at the helm came to a close, UBC head coach Poonam Sandhu was proud of how her team battled until the final horn sounded on the season.
"With the odd injuries here and there, with bounces not going your way...I think sometimes you have to just push through the unknown," she said. "I'm so happy and proud that they kept it consistent. They left it to the last game. We weren't out last week - we had an opportunity and I think we put ourselves in a good position this season. Sometimes you just have to keep fighting and I thought they really fought right to the end. They didn't lose hope, so I'm proud of them."
Calgary head coach Peter Taylor also reflected on the positives in a season that saw the Dinos earn their first points in the Canada West standings since 2012 - finishing with an 0-6-2 record.
"Our objective has always been to play well, do the best we can and see what we can do," remarked Taylor. "The two draws were the first points we've had in years. The girls have really grown and put a lot of commitment into it. I'm really happy and really proud of this group of girls. They've done a fantastic job."
The two teams traded chances early, but the T-Birds managed to pin the Dinos in their own end and poured on the pressure late in the first half. Despite a number of UBC chances, the score remained deadlocked in a scoreless draw at the half.
Calgary goalkeeper Ingrid Ulrich stacked the pads early in the second half to make her biggest save of the game and continued to face a barrage of Thunderbird shots. In the 54th minute of play, rookie Izzy Fraser broke free on a run to the net and third-year midfielder Margaret Pham jumped on a rebound to score the lone goal of the afternoon.
"[Thora Rae], Margaret and Izzy are probably the three girls that just consistently are bringing the fire," said Sandhu. "Goodie (Sara Goodman) has been so solid in the back for us, and [Alix Vanry] is a little firecracker up at the front...she gets into spots and she surprises you. I'm happy with the amount of effort they put in."
PHOTO: Rich Lam/UBC Thunderbirds