By Mark Janzen, Trinity Western University
LANGLEY, British Columbia – Trinity Western fourth-year midfielder Jenaya Robertson (Delta, B.C.) scored a pair of second-half goals to lead the defending Canada West champion Spartans to a 3-1 win over Victoria in TWU's home-opener Friday at Chase Office Field.
In a contest that marked a rematch of last year's Canada West championship final, the teams traded goals in the first half – Victoria's Rachel Baird tallied with a fifth-minute penalty kick and TWU's Gabi Short (Calgary) equalised in the 33rd minute – before Robertson broke it open with markers in the 52nd and 65th minute.
With Seina Kashima (Burnaby, B.C.) sending the ball into the box off a set piece, Robertson cut through the middle of the box and headed it home for what would prove to be the game-winner. For the fifth-year Kashima, the assist was her second of the night, which made her the all-time Canada West leader in assists, with 29 over her career. She passed former Calgary Dinos star Tessa Miller for top spot in the conference.
Taking over the starting goaltending duties this year, TWU's Rachel Sydor (Tsawwassen, B.C.) made seven saves to earn the win. The Vikes Puck Louwes, who was a U SPORTS First Team All-Canadian last year, also made seven stops in the loss.
With Victoria pressing early, the Vikes opened the scoring when Baird took advantage of a penalty opportunity, slotting it past a diving Sydor to the bottom left corner. Baird took to the mark after Sydor tripped up Georgia Bignold in the box.
The Vikes were the stronger side early on, but the Spartans pushed back and eventually tied the contest when Short took a well-timed pass from Kashima in the middle of the box and cracked it beyond Louwes into the low left corner.
Early in the second half, the game started to tilt the Spartans way before Robertson put TWU ahead in the 52nd minute. With Kashima sending in a ball from outside the box, Robertson made a nifty run and glanced the ball to the back of the net.
Seven minutes later, Robertson tallied again, jumping on a rebound off a Kashima shot and burying the ball past a scrambling Louwes from just a few feet out.
Sydor was forced to make a couple of saves late as the Vikes pushed back over the final few minutes, but the Spartans held off Victoria down the stretch to seal the win.
TWU Head Coach Graham Roxburgh
"We're obviously pleased to win your home-opener against a very good team, but we made it hard on ourselves at times. I thought UVIC's work rate and their ability to link passes made it challenging and I thought we made some poor decisions early on. I thought we showed some character and that goal late in the first half was crucial to settle our nerves. I thought we were probably worthy winners but we didn't make it easy on ourselves. I'm pleased we got a set piece goal and then the scramble goal kind of sealed it for us. I just thought in the second half we were better."
• Kashima finished last year in a tie with Miller for the all-time conference lead, with 27 assists.
• The last time TWU played at Chase Office Field was in last year's conference championship final, when the Spartans beat Victoria 2-1.
• Three different first-year Spartans saw action in Friday's tilt, including Sierra Halldorson, Makenna Dieterich and Syd Duquette.
• Victoria's Louwes didn't allow more than two goals in a single match throughout the entire 2017 regular season.
The Spartans are back at home Saturday when they host UBC at 5 p.m. (PT) at Chase Office Field. The Vikes will travel to play Fraser Valley Saturday at 5:30 p.m. (PT). Both games will be streamed live at www.canadwest.tv.