The early arrival of winter-like weather conditions forced the postponement of Saturday’s university men’s soccer game at North Cariboo Field.
The UNBC Timberwolves, still clinging to hopes of clinching their first-ever Canada West Conference playoff berth, had hoped to play the Fraser Valley Cascades in their final game of the regular season, but overnight snowfall dumped several centimetres of snow on the field and it was deemed too wet and unsafe for the teams to play.
The game has been rescheduled for Monday at 2 p.m. in Abbotsford on the home field of the Cascades. The decision, which involved both teams and the North Cariboo Senior Soccer League which oversees maintenance of the field, was made Saturday at 2:30 p.m.
“There’s so much standing water and it’s not safe to play, the water’s not going anywhere, it’s not playable,” said UNBC athletics director Loralyn Murdoch. “So we’ll play Monday at 2 against Fraser Valley on their regular field, a turf field.
“It’s very disappointing, this is two years in a row where it snows so early in October. Next year we really hope Masich (Stadium) will be open and we can get on there. We can’t sacrifice someone getting hurt to get a game off and wrecking a field that isn’t ours.”
Last year at this time, a weekend doubleheader at North Cariboo between the T-wolves and Victoria Vikings was wiped out by snow. Most teams in the Canada West Conference play on all-weather artificial turf fields which are built on sand which drains away standing water quickly. The fields at North Cariboo are built on dirt and drainage becomes a problem in wet conditions. They didn’t appear dangerous Saturday afternoon but looks can be deceiving.
“When you see green grass, what you don’t see is the amount of water underneath it,” said UNBC men’s team head coach Steve Simonson. “The Number 1 thing that comes into a decision like this is the safety of the players, and we’ve seen injuries on wet grass surfaces. There was one locally happening on this very field not to long ago. When it softens up it’s not only slippery but it can become dangerous in the wrong situation.
“Emotionally, everyone is going, ‘Why aren’t we playing?’ but the reality is, safety first, and somebody has to make that decision.”
UNBC is on the hook for the cost of flying the team down to Abbotsford for Monday’s game, a $15,000 cost. It might have been a lot more if they had tried to play Sunday in Prince George and the field had remained unsafe.
“If we were to wait for (Sunday) to make this decision they would have had to pay Fraser Valley to change their flights (another $6,000),” said Murdoch. “They fly out at 11 a.m. (Sunday) and what if we can’t play?”
Construction is nearly complete at Masich Place Stadium, where both UNBC soccer teams (men and women) will play their home games next year. Murdoch said it has yet to be determined if the teams will continue to play games and practice in good weather in subsequent years on the natural grass at North Cariboo.
Only the top four teams in each division advance to the Canada West playoffs.
The Timberwolves (4-5-6) are now sixth in the standings, just ahead of the seventh-place Cascades (4-6-3). Playoffs are still be a possibility for UNBC heading into Monday’s must-win game. The first-place UBC Thunderbirds did the T-wolves a favour Saturday with their 1-0 win over the third-place UBC –Okanagan Heat (5-5-3). The Heat will finish the season next weekend with a home-and-home series with fourth-place (4-3-5) Thompson Rivers WolfPack. UNBC is also hoping the second-place Trinity Western Spartans (6-4-4) will lose both their remaining games next weekend at home against UBC and Victoria.
Meanwhile, in Canada West women’s soccer action Saturday in Winnipeg, the UNBC Timberwolves and Winnipeg Wesmen finished their game tied 0-0.
Rookie UNBC goalie Brooke Molby recorded her second-straight shutout, making three saves. Her counterpart in the Wesmen nets, Madison Fordyce, blocked all four shots she faced.
The result leaves UNBC (2-7-2) sixth in the Pacific Division, while Winnipeg (1-7-4) remained seventh in the Prairie Division. With the top six Pacific clubs making playoffs, the T-wolves are still in contention. They'll finish their regular season with games against Thompson Rivers Saturday in Kamloops and UBC Okanagan Sunday in Kelowna.