Rich Abney, UNBC Athletics
PRINCE GEORGE - Playing their first game at the new Masich Place Stadium, the University of Northern British Columbia's Women's soccer team wanted to prove they were plenty comfortable in their new confines. Three goals of offense and an gritty victory proved just that for the Timberwolves, as the home side earned a 3-1 victory over the visiting Regina Cougars.
After a slow start to the game, it was the Timberwolves who got on the board first in the 30th minute. The speedy Sofia Jones allowed the San Francisco native to get a step on the Cougars backline, and she put a ball perfectly on the foot of Paige Payne who tapped it in past a helpless Kylie Bolton. Payne's marker was her third of the young season.
"Coming into my third year, through the summer I worked really hard," said Payne. "Our team is coming together, and it is allowing us to get some balls through and on the attack."
The TWolves seized control and continued to apply pressure, as both Kylie Erb and Madison Emmond hit the crossbar behind Bolton, but the ball stayed out.
In the 42nd minute, the speed of the Timberwolves forced a Regina defender to foul, setting up a free kick for UNBC captain Madison Emmond. The Prince George product sent a beautiful ball into Mara McCleary, playing up from her centreback position for the set play. The third-year from Victoria head the ball perfectly past Bolton, giving her the first goal of her Canada West career, and giving UNBC a two goal lead.
"They play a diamond in the midfield, so they had four in the mid and we had three," said Regina's Sydney Langen. "They were able to play throughout us and get balls to the box. Our defense was having to do a lot of running up and down the pitch."
The second half saw much of the same, as Payne and Jones continued to cause problems in the Regina end. Defender Amou Madol was tremendous clearing balls out of harm's way, but the pressure of the TWolves wouldn't be denied. Emmond found Jones over the top with a great ball and the fleet-footed American did the rest, moving in on Bolton and finding mesh for her second of the season.
"Sofia is a first-year here, she is doing really well and she has a lot of pace," said Payne postgame. "We connect on a level and everyone on our team was attacking."
The Cougars responded valiantly, proceeding to win battles all over the pitch, and pushing back against the home side. In the 64th minute, off a scramble in the TWolves box, defender Lydia Lavigne was called for a handball, giving Regina a penalty kick. Nikita Senko was tabbed to take it, scoring her first of the year past a sprawling Brooke Molby.
The Cougars continued to press, with the speed of Brigit Sinaga playing a role in the increased pressure. However, the Timberwolves would be bend and not break, and Molby did the rest, taking the game 3-1 when the final whistle blew.
"We came out last weekend and had a lot if attacking chances, but we didn't get the outcomes we wanted," said Payne. "Now, on our home turf, it was really good to get these three points. We worked really hard for them, and hopefully Sunday we can come back out and work just as hard."
With the victory, the Timberwolves improve to 1-1-1, while the Cougars slide to 1-2-0 on the season.
"We have back to back games, so we need to keep a positive mindset," said Langen postgame. "We need to go into Sunday's game confident and strong, that we are going to come out with a win."