When does a tie feel like a victory?
When you're the winless UNBC Timberwolves and you finish deadlocked with the first-place Calgary Dinos. UNBC's 1-1 CIS Canada West Conference tie with the Dinos on a sunny Sunday at North Cariboo Field was a fitting tribute to four T-wolves veterans in the last home game of their university careers.
For Jordan Hall, her twin sister Sydney, Tanya Grob and Jo Ribeirio, going toe-to-toe with the powerful Dinos will no doubt go down as one of the highlights after five years of wearing the green and gold.
The tie would not have happened if Jordan Hall hadn't played her best game of the season. Hall, 22, got a bit of help from a couple of crossbars and a goal post in the first half but her shutout Sunday was head-over-heels impressive.
Dinos leading scorer Mollee Ramsay rattled the crossbar twice, but it was Hall who saved the day for UNBC on the second one, getting both palms on Ramsay's wicked blast from point-blank range, deflected it up and off the plank 30 seconds before the intermission. It was just another day at the office for Hall, who made 12 saves in the game.
"It was a big weekend for us all and it almost feels like win just because we worked so hard and we all played for each other," said Jordan Hall. "The Dinos are No. 1 in their conference and I'm glad we performed."
Hall was aggressive all game tracking down loose balls and she had Jordan Smith's number, making at least four quality saves off the Calgary sniper in the second half. With about 10 minutes left and the Dinos pressing, Hall paid the price in a collision with Smith chasing down the ball and got flipped, leaving the net empty with a pack of Dinos surrounding Grob as she booted the ball away just in time.
"We definitely had a lot of attacking chances and we couldn't finish any of them, their goalie was the difference-maker for them for sure," said Smith. "They were very aggressive and tried to win everything. This was one of the toughest physical games we've played."
The T-wolves were hanging by a thread through much of the game, but led by Grob and Fiona Raymond on the back end, they were more effective at clearing the crease after the break.
Tianna Pius set up UNBC's best chance with about five minutes left after a Calgary free kick. The third-year-midfielder sprung Julia Babicz on a 2-on-1 break and Babicz got within 15 yards of the goal and shot but Dinos defender Kira Lee sacrificed her body with a timely block.
"It was nice to get the tie for our last home weekend, it was a good weekend overall with two ties," said Sydney Hall, a fifth-year centre forward. "It's pretty sad that this is our final home weekend but I think there's big things to come for this team, even though we're leaving.
"This was one of (Jordan's) best games of the season. She defended well and her distribution was good. It all starts in the back and works its way forward and everyone put the effort in. It was obviously more of a defensive game for us but defensively we kept it up and didn't let a goal in at the 80th minute."
Combined with Friday's 1-1 tie with Lethbridge, that marked only the second time in team history the T-wolves have gone undefeated in consecutive weekend games. They did it once before against Winnipeg and Manitoba two seasons ago.
"Credit to the girls, they really dug deep an defended against a big strong team and that's what you do when you need points," said T-wolves head coach Andy Cameron.
The tie left Calgary (5-2-1) still first in the East. Eighth-place UNBC (0-6-2) has six games remaining.
The T-wolves have won only a few games in her time at UNBC but Grob realizes the value of competing in Canada's best amateur soccer league and what that has done for developing UNBC's players.
"It's been a big change from where we started and where we ended," said Grob. "When we started it was more, run hard and play hard, but now we've kind of transitioned to the technique and our work ethic is still there."