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T-wolves fall in Victoria

Canada West soccer teams get back to business after season lost to pandemic
16 Twolves Abou Cisse in Victoria Sept 9 21
UNBC Timberwolves midfielder Abou Cisse contemplates his options while being watched by a Victoria Vikes defender during Friday's season-opening Canada West university soccer action Friday night in Victoria. The Vikes beat UNBC 2-1.

Victory in Victoria?

It didn’t happen Friday for either UNBC Timberwolves soccer team in their first U SPORTS Canada West league game action in two years, but they gave the hometown Vikes plenty of opposition.

Returning to the field for the first time since the pandemic wiped out their 2020 season, the UNBC men dropped  2-1 decision in what was a physical game for both teams. That game came right after the Timberwolves women lost 3-1 to the Vikes.

Jose Sagaste scored both Victoria goals in the men’s game, while Abou Cisse replied late in the game for UNBC

UNBC goalie Daniel Zadravec gave his team a huge lift with the game still scoreless, 27 minutes into a back-and-forth first half, when he dove to take away a penalty shot attempt from Canada West player of the year Isaac Koch.

“It is like scoring a goal, honestly. That is how we look at it. You never want to be scored on, no matter what,” T-wolves senior Alex Nielson told UNBC athletics information officer Rich Abney. “For Dan to make a play like that was a huge boost.” 

But Zadravec, playing in his sophomore season, was unable to stop Koch when he got open with the ball on his foot to open the scoring at the 37-minute mark. Zadravec was busy in that opening half as the Vikes outshot the T-wolves 6-2.

UNBC had a couple of close calls early in the game when Owen Stewart and Anthony Preston both booted hard shots over the crossbar behind goalie Harjot Nijjar.

“We have been working on a lot of structural stuff in practice and Steve (UNBC coach Simonson) is always asking us to think about what is next,” said Nelson. ”Getting those looks feels good. You are outplaying them in those moments, but that final step or moment isn’t coming together. But it is reassuring we are getting to those places and getting those looks.” 

In the second half, the Vikes made it 2-0, gaining ball possession after a handball was called, which led to Sagaste’s second goal of the game. The T-wolves thought he was offside but no flags were raised and the goal counted.

Cisse came off the bench to replace Stu Rowlands and was rewarded in the 85th minute when he converted on a Kensho Ando pass to score the first goal of the season for UNBC.

Despite getting outshot 18-9, UNBC managed to generate more quality scoring chances than their opponents but Nijjar was up to the task.

The same teams meet again tonight at 7:15 p.m. at Centennial Stadium in Victoria.

Meanwhile, in the women’s game, the T-wolves fell behind early when Emma Skalik took a rebound off the crossbar and kicked it in past goalie Brooke Molby less than a minute int the game. 

The T-wolves tied it four minutes later when Victoria native Sarah Zuccaro blasted a free kick from 25 yards out in past the outstretched arms of ‘keeper Kayley Lidstone.

“I got up from being knocked down and my legs actually felt a little shaky. I thought I would cross it over, because I knew if it would float over, it would be on net,” said Zuccaro. “That’s exactly what happened. The crowd was so intense and loud, when it happened, I almost forgot they were the opposing crowd. A crazy environment to score in.” 

Then at the eight-minute mark, the Vikes got their lead back when Lauren Parr was set up Skalik. Dari Cote capped the scoring late in the game.

UNBC rookies Jaslin Mandaher, Kalista Kirkness, Robyn Zinkan, Avery Nystedt, Grace Gillman, Kjera Hayman, among 21 first-year players on the team, all played their first Canada West game on Friday.

 “Everyone gets those first-game jitters, but they dealt with them so well. They really stepped up today and made a great effort,” said Zuccaro. “They worked so hard, considering how nerve wracking that first game can be. 

“We will watch the game tape and see what tactical adjustments we can make. The main thing is recovering because it is a fast turnaround, and ensuring we are physically and mentally ready. It will be a completely different environment. There will be no crowd, so we will need to adjust.” 

The rematch starts at 5 p.m. (webcast on Canada West TV).