Highlanders keep T-Birds grounded

Since they were basically playing current and recent UBC Thunderbirds alumni, CIS champions in 2012 and 2013, perhaps it was only fitting that a couple of UVic players and a Vikes alumnus exercised pivotal roles Sunday for the Victoria Highlanders.

Victoria got a goal at 57 minutes from Andrew Ravenhill, on a through ball by Tarnvir Bhandal, in its 1-1 Pacific Coast Soccer League draw against the host Vancouver Thunderbirds. Boris Si equallized for the T-Birds at 65 minutes.

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“They [Vancouver] had the majority of the UBC squad out there,” said Victoria head coach Dave Dew, of the summer-league Thunderbirds, who are undefeated at 2-0-1.

That’s OK. Because Dew had enough UVic players to counteract that in a deadlocked outcome.

Bhandal is a Vikes midfielder with a seamless style who is going into his third year at Centennial Stadium. Ravenhill received a pro MLS trial with the San Jose Earthquakes after five standout seasons with UVic. Six-foot-three goalkeeper Noah Pawlowski, a CIS anomaly as first-team all-Canadian for UVic as a 33-year-old mature student, made two crucial saves in the second half to preserve the tie for the Highlanders.

Dew moved Ravenhill up to midfield from his normal defender position, and it worked.

“Andrew terrorized the Thunderbirds back line,” said Dew.

Dew added the talent and the pace of play over the weekend showed the standard of the PCSL. The late winning goal in the Highlanders’ 2-0 loss Saturday to Vancouver United was initiated by ex-pro Jason Jordan, the former Canada U-20 and U-23 player who scored 74 goals as the third-leading career scorer for the pre-MLS Vancouver Whitecaps of the USL.

“Anybody is capable of taking points off anybody in this league,” said Dew.

Considering the level of skill they are matched against, the Victoria bench boss praised the play of his younger charges. Mackenzie Cole, a Grade 11 Glenlyon Norfolk School star who will garner strong interest next season from NCAA and CIS recruiters, just missed connecting twice in the second half for the Highlanders.

The game was played on the first completed field, of five planned, at the Whitecaps’ new MLS training facility under construction on the UBC campus.

Victoria is 2-1-4 in the PCSL standings and the Mid Isle Mariners, a team that incorporates several of the players from the national-powerhouse Vancouver Island University Mariners program, is 3-1-1.

The Highlanders travel to the Interior on Saturday to take on Kamloops (1-2-1) before rolling back down into the Valley to play Abbotsford (0-1-2) on Sunday.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

Twitter.com/tc_vicsports

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