T-wolves fall short in playoff hunt

Despite a much improved season, there will be no playoffs for the UNBC Timberwolves men's soccer team.

The Timberwolves were eliminated from playoff contention with a 2-1 Monday loss in Victoria to the University of Victoria Vikes. On Sunday, also in Victoria, they had beaten the Vikes 5-2 to keep their hopes alive.

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But, with two games remaining and an overall record of 4-9-1, the T-wolves can't catch the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack (6-7-1), who currently hold the fourth and final playoff spot in CIS Canada West's Pacific Division.

Last season, in a 12-game schedule, the Timberwolves managed just one victory and a tie so they have made definite strides this year.

"To say there were three games left to go and we were still in the hunt (for playoffs), that's good for our program," said UNBC head coach Steve Simonson. "We'll build off that. We're disappointed with (the Monday loss) for sure, but we're happy with the progress the program has made.

"To come in and have the result we had (Sunday) and a very tight game (Monday) gives us a lot of hope that we've closed a lot of the ground," Simonson added. "We've taken points in the last five weekends we have played so we're close - now we just have that next hurdle to clear."

The games against UVic were supposed to be played Saturday and Sunday in Prince George but were moved to Victoria because of snowy conditions here.

In Monday's contest, Tarnvir Bhandal scored the winner for UVic in the 76th minute when he took a crossing pass from teammate Evan Stefanek and tapped the ball into an open side of the UNBC net behind keeper Mitch MacFarlane.

Isaac Koch scored for the Vikes in the 17th minute and James Stephens answered for the Timberwolves in the 57th minute. The play started with a corner kick by Tofa Fakunle, whose inbound ball was controlled by Emmanuel Drame. After his skillful reception, Drame chest-bumped the ball to the feet of Stephens, who shot from 12 yards out and was rewarded with his first-ever CIS goal.

In Sunday's win, third-year UNBC forward Francesco Bartolillo netted a hat trick, while Fakunle finished with one goal and two assists. Rookie midfielder Owen Stewart, a Prince George youth soccer product, also scored for the Timberwolves, who led 2-1 at halftime.

Paulo Dait and Koch responded for the Vikes.

MacFarlane picked up the win but had plenty of help from his defence, which limited UVic to three shots on goal. At the other end of the field, the T-wolves generated 12.

Like the Timberwolves, the Vikes have a 4-9-1 record.

The T-wolves will complete their season Friday and Saturday in Abbotsford when they take on the University of the Fraser Valley Cascades, who head into the matches with a 7-6-1 record.

The UNBC Timberwolves women's soccer team had a Friday home game wiped out by snow and was forced to travel to Kelowna for a Sunday match against the UBC Okanagan Heat. While the road trip was unexpected, the T-wolves made it worthwhile when they battled the Heat to a 1-1 draw and nabbed their first point of the season.

The UNBC goal was courtesy of Prince George's Maddy Doucette, who used quick feet to capitalize on a UBCO error and then put the ball into an open cage for her first CIS marker. On the play, a pass-back from a Heat defender to goalkeeper Joella Koblischke eluded Koblischke and that gave Doucette an open path to the empty net.

UBCO knotted the score early in the second half on a pretty passing play that was finished off by Susan Traynor.

Shanna Olsen, who is normally a midfielder, started in goal for UNBC on an emergency basis and stopped eight shots. Koblischke and Caralina Serrano split time in the Heat net and made a combined four saves.

The Timberwolves improved to 0-10-1 and the Heat moved to 4-7-1.

No plans have been made to reschedule UNBC's Friday match, which had the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack (1-10-0) as the opponent. The teams are at the bottom of the Pacific Division standings and will not make playoffs.

The Timberwolves will wrap up their season this weekend in Calgary, where they will kick against the MacEwan University Griffins (Saturday) and Mount Royal University Cougars (Sunday).

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