Larry Read/Thompson Rivers WolfPack
VANCOUVER — The Thompson Rivers University WolfPack men's soccer team are Canada West bronze medal champions for the second straight year. The WolfPack downed the University of the Fraser Valley Cascades 1-0 at the Canada West Final Four. The third-place match was played in a torrential downpour Saturday night on Ken Woods Field at UBC.
The lone goal was scored in the 24th minute by Justin Donaldson. Rookie keeper Jackson Gardner notched the clean sheet.
It was the first time in three meetings between the two teams this year that Thompson Rivers beat Fraser Valley.
The match started slow but opened up about 14 minutes in when TRU's James Fraser (3rd year, forward, Penticton, BC) took a pass, turned and fired just wide of the net. Fraser Valley had a good chance in the 16th minute when Canada West First Team All-Star Gurmaan Jhaj had a free kick which created a scoring chance at the side of the TRU net.
The 'Pack opened the scoring in the 24th minute when Donaldson deflected a free kick into the net past UFV 'keeper David Hicks.
Late in the first half, Fraser Valley got a corner kick but was unable to connect. TRU went into the dressing room up 1-0..
In the 53rd minute, Jan Pirretas Glasmacher (2nd year, defender, Barcelona, Spain) got the ball at midfield and spotted a streaking Donaldson on the right side. He moved into the box and drilled a low shot which Hicks stopped. The rebound came out to Koffi Nyavor (4th year, midfield, Coquitlam, BC) who put it over the net.
In the 62nd minute, the WolfPack had another great chance when Khalifa Fanne (4th year, Tours, France) sent a rocket to the upper right side of the UFV net that Hicks had to jump to knock out of harm's way.
Fraser Valley had a glorious chance to tie it up in the 67th minute. After Nyavor was assessed a yellow card, David Parfett was awarded a free kick. But the Pack were able to defend it.
TRU—24:00—Justin Donaldson (4th year, midfield, Kamloops, BC) deflected a free kick from Mitch Popadynetz (5th year, midfield, Nelson, BC) which went in low left side. TRU 1 UFV 0
TRU: Jackson Gardner (1st year, Chilliwack, BC)
UFV: David Hicks
THEY SAID IT! (post match quotes):
TRU head coach John Antulov (5th year):
On winning second straight bronze medal, is it sweeter the second time: " It is kind of the same feeling. It is always great to get a medal. The fact in the first five years we have been able to go to two final fours and get a medal out of it. It is a big accomplishment for our group. For our players. I am especially happy for our fifth years.
On this game:" We knew it was going to be a tough game after both of us (UFV and TRU) lost yesterday. Our guys were ready to play and end the season on a good note. We said as a group that anything we did in the playoffs was great for our program. We dedicated this game to our graduating players. They guys really stepped up and played great."
TRU forward Justin Donaldson (4th year, forward, Kamloops, BC)
On goal: "We have been pretty strong on set pieces this year. With Mitch putting it into the right position, I just had to go to the open space and put my foot on it."
Relfects on the year: " We had a really tough start this year. Injuries really hit us hard. We were 2-6-2 and had to pick it up. Once everyone was healthy we started to turn it around. No one expected us to make the playoffs. Here we are now with a medal."
TRU defender Finlay McPhie (5th year, defender, Vernon, BC):
On winning second bronze medal: " It feels pretty good. We were kind of out of it at the start of the year. We came back to make playoffs and beat a good team like Alberta. It was disappointing to lose yesterday (semi final defeat to Trinity Western). It feels pretty good to win another bronze."
Comments on ending his U SPORTS career with a bronze medal: "It would have been nice to make nationals again. But another bronze medal is good. Especially after the start I had to my TRU career, it is pretty good. After the start we had this year, I didn't think this year would be memorable but it turned out to be a pretty good one."
Fraser Valley head coach Tom Lowndes:
"I can't put into words how proud I am of the boys. It would have been very easy for us after last night's game to hang our heads and be down on ourselves. But our response was fantastic. As a coach, when your players respond that way, show you how much they want it and come off the field in tears, you can't be anything but proud. I'm gutted for them, but for the season as a whole, it was really good. I'm excited for our future."
"I thought in the second half, it was one-way traffic. We were knocking on the door for a good 35 or 40 minutes. Unfortunately we just didn't get a little bounce here or there where we could put one in."
This was the final career match for four members of the WolfPack: Mitchell Popadynetz (Nelson, BC), Finlay McPhie (Vernon, BC), Jason Staiger (Agassiz, BC) and Thomas Lantmeeters (Genk, Belguim). Lantmeeters does have two years of eligibility left but he is graduating with the Masters of Business.
For Fraser Valley, Alex Skretza, David Hicks and Tammer Byrne were playing their final matches.
PHOTO: Wilson Wong/UBC Thunderbirds