Smaller, indoor field on tap as Vikes take aim at national soccer title

The top eight teams in the country, including No. 1 seed and defending-champion Laval, will gather in the Manitoba capital for the tournament, which is hosted by the Manitoba Bisons.

The decision to move indoors was made last week, a strange conclusion considering this will be the first time soccer nationals are played indoors on a pitch that is a little narrower than a standard outdoor pitch. The complication is the that roof is just over 15.5 metres high, which will affect kicks from goalkeepers, not to mention any high, long-ball attempts.

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David, not a big fan of the decision, was proceeding as planned as her No. 5 Vikes take on the No. 4 Cape Breton Capers today at 10:30 a.m. Pacific time in one quarter-final. The Canada West runners-up are making their first appearance at nationals since 2012.

“We’re good on turf. The players are happy the temperatures won’t be a factor, so those are the positives that you deal with,” said David. “We’re not going to be worrying about wind or sun or any of the elements you usually face in an outdoor game.

“Certainly, the width is a little bit of a concern, I would say. I know the walls are quite close to the sideline, so it’s going to be different. But we can’t think about it, we just have to go out and play the game and do the things we know we can do.”

Cape Breton has yet to lose this season at 11-0-1 in regular-season play and 2-0 in playoffs. The Vikes were 9-1-4 in the regular season and 2-1 in playoffs after losing the Canada West final 2-1 to Trinity Western last weekend.

“They’re aggressive, they are tough, have some height and speed, and they are very, very good on set pieces, so those are things we have to deal with,” David said of playing the Capers.

Should the Vikes get through the quarter-finals, they are likely to face No. 1 Laval, a team the Vikes defeated at nationals in Cape Breton in 2007 (in which the host Capers claimed gold). Laval opens against No. 8 Western at 8 a.m., while No. 3 Guelph meets No. 6 Montreal at 1 p.m. before Canada West champion Trinity Western (the No. 2 seed) tackles host and No. 7 Manitoba at 4 p.m.

Championship semifinals are slated for Friday at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., with the gold-medal game set for Sunday at 1 p.m. after the 10:30 a.m. bronze game.

The Vikes — who claimed a nationals bronze at home in 2012, defeating Ottawa in penalty kicks — would love a medal again.

“You have to win the first game,” added David. “That’s on their minds, and that’s on our minds, and we have to take care of business.”

It’s definitely on Vikes co-captain Elise Butler’s mind, indoors or not.

“I think, honestly, it’s how you adjust to any game,” Butler said of being forced indoors. “It’s a different team, one we haven’t played before, and we have to go into it with a positive mindset. That’s what we have to do.

“We have to go at this one game at a time, hope to win the first one and then readjust our minds after that one.”

The Vikes have been a stingy bunch. Aside from giving up two goals in last weekend’s Canada West final to Trinity Western, goalkeeper Puck Louwes and the team have recorded 12 shutouts in league and non-conference play.

“Going in, the goal was to get to nationals and reaching that goal was amazing for us,” said Louwes, who, along with teammate Butler, was named a U Sports All-Canadian on Wednesday. “We’re conscious of not getting ahead of ourselves at all and right now all our attention is on Cape Breton.”

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