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Male Timberwolves beat the Heat

Welcome to university soccer Francesco Bartolillo.

Welcome to university soccer Francesco Bartolillo.

Bartolillo, a rookie midfielder for UNBC's men's soccer squad, scored not only the team's first goal but his first goal of his Canadian Interuniversity Sport career to help lead the Timberwolves to a 2-1 win over the visiting UBC Okanagan Heat Sunday afternoon.

The victory gave UNBC a much-needed two points in the CIS Canada West Pacific Division's regular season and a split in the two-game series. The Heat shut out the T-wolves 2-0 on Saturday.

On Sunday, Bartolillo was set up on his goal early in the first half by his long-time pal, second-year striker Tofa Fakunle. The pair grew up playing soccer together in Calgary.

"That was definitely nice to have," said Bartolillo, who's studying business. "Tofa sent me in on a through ball and I just slid it into the corner."

Fakunle scored UNBC's second goal when a shot from third-year midfielder Connor Noftle was blocked by a Heat defender who headed the ball away. Fakunle volleyed the ball back from the top corner of the goal box, finding the net with 10 minutes left in the first half.

The Heat answered in the second half when midfielder Austin Jones got behind the back line pulling UNBC's goalkeeper Ty Venhola out of position and sent the ball into the back of the net.

UBCO continued to pressure in regulation, including five minutes of extra time, but the T-wolves hung on for the win, their first in their history on opening weekend.

"Today was more representative of who we are," said UNBC head coach Alan Alderson, adding there was some pressure of opening the season at home. "It's a good thing for this young team to build on that we can find ways to win. We were so pumped up yesterday [Saturday] to play at home and we played awful. Since we already lost, we said now let's go out and play [today]. They now know how much it takes to get a CIS win and they usually have to earn it. The players were fighting for everything and that's great."

Bartolillo was one of the highly-touted freshmen that Alderson recruited to play for the Timberwolves this season. Bartolillo suited up for an Alberta provincial team and spent three years with the National Training Centre program. He spent last year at the University of Calgary, but didn't play for the Dinos because of an injury.

Bartolillo arrived in Prince George Aug. 7 prior to training camp and is adapting to his new surroundings.

"It's been awesome so far with Alan and the team is starting to gel," he said. "With Tofa we grew up together so it's nice to step out onto the pitch at this level which makes it even better."

UNBC tackles the defending national champion UBC Thunderbirds this weekend in Vancouver. The Thunderbirds sit atop the Pacific Division with a record of 2-0 after a 3-1 victory over University of Victoria Friday and a 1-0 shutout against University of Fraser Valley Sunday.

"UBC will be a handful," said Alderson. "We'll go down and play a giant. With our team this year, we're excited. You never know."

Trinity Western, UBCO, UNBC and UVic are all tied in the Pacific Division with identical 1-1 records and two points each. Thompson Rivers University and UFV are behind them.