UFV’s Taylor Richardson (left) battles for the ball with an Alberta player during Canada West playoff action on Friday (Oct. 29). (Don Voaklander/UAlberta Athletics)

UFV’s Taylor Richardson (left) battles for the ball with an Alberta player during Canada West playoff action on Friday (Oct. 29). (Don Voaklander/UAlberta Athletics)

UFV men’s soccer team punches final four ticket

Men’s team defeats Alberta 2-1 in playoff opener, women’s club falls 2-0 to MacEwan

The Cinderella story continues for the University of the Fraser Valley Cascades men’s soccer team, as the team who started the regular season off winless after five games walked into Edmonton on Friday (Oct. 29) and crushed the Alberta Golden Bears title dreams.

After surrendering a goal in the 13th minute, Taylor Richardson evened the game up at the 33rd minute and David Parfett scored the eventual game winner at 63:12 to earn the 2-1 win and send the Cascades to the Canada West final four.

A crucial moment occurred in the dying moments of the game, when UFV goalkeeper Jackson Cowx stopped a penalty kick to secure the win.

Alberta entered the game as a favourite, having finished second in the Central Division and going only losing once (4-1-5) during the regular season.

It’s just the fourth time in school history that UFV has advanced to the final four, and the first time since 2018.

“My chest has been feeling pretty tight for the past 20 minutes,” UFV head coach Tom Lowndes said following the win. “It seems to be every time we come here, it ages me five or 10 years. Just incredible.

“I’m so proud of our guys. I think for us, we’re always the underdogs. No one believes in us, except for us. That’s kind of been our motto all year – we don’t care what other people think, we know what we are. Everyone’s bought into that as a team. We look at the rankings in the preseason, we put our heads down, and go to work. I’m excited to see how far we can go.”

The Cascades were ranked ninth in the preseason coaches poll, but have proven those pundits wrong.

Lowndes also had high praise for his goalkeeper.

“A fantastic, heroic save by Jackson,” he said. “That’s a pressure of the highest level, to make a save like that in the 96th minute.”

Lowndes went on to laud the play of Richardson, who ran miles for the Cascades and caused the Golden Bears problems with his speed down the right wing throughout.

“Tay’s been fantastic the past four or five weeks,” he said. “He hit his form at the right time. At the start of the year he was trying to find his way a little bit, but he’s been a handful for defenders. I thought he was really, really good today.”

UFV will now take on the Victoria Vikes, who defeated the MacEwan Griffins 6-3 on Saturday (Oct. 30). The semifinal game occurs on Saturday, Nov. 6 in Calgary at 10 a.m. Abbotsford time. If the Cascades win they play for CW gold.

For the UFV women it was the end of the line.

The Cascades also traveled to Edmonton, but took on the MacEwan Griffins on Saturday (Oct. 30). They ultimately came up short falling 2-0 after allowing goals in the 36th and 66th minutes.

“We started on a positive note – we were moving the ball, feeling quite confident, and finding ways to get in behind them,” Cascades head coach Niko Marcina said afterward. “Then for some reason, we kind of sat back. We were focused on defending well as a group … but they were able to find their rhythm.

“On the flip side, we battled – we battled right to the very end. We have some opportunities that could have ended in quality chances on goal, but they were able to break them up.

“I’m very happy and proud to be part of this group, which has never given up since the day we started together. I couldn’t have asked for more.”

The team made a remarkable turnaround, winning its final six games to qualify for the postseason. The Griffins won the Central Division and posted a regular season record of 10-2.

The result marks the conclusion of several Cascades’ university soccer careers. Simi Lehal and Kelsey Mitchell have used up all five years of eligibility, while Harneet Dadrao, Joven Sandhu, Taylor Nekic, Brittany Costa and Sarah Parker have eligibility remaining but are on pace to graduate in the spring.

“The seven that are graduating have brought a level of maturity and experience that we needed,” Marcina said. “As a result, our first-, second- and third-years fed off their positive energy. We wanted our leaders to lead by example on and off the field, and they’ve done that. They’ve passed the torch in a positive way.

“There’s been a different mentality and vibe in our environment this year. We have a lot of self-belief, and a lot of love for each other. We know how hard we have to compete to succeed in this conference, we just have to refine our abilities in possession. That will come with time.”

For more, visit gocascades.ca.

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