The University of Manitoba Bisons women’s soccer team knows exactly where it will be Nov. 9-12. It will be right at home. The Bisons are hosting the U Sports national championship tournament for the first time.
The University of Victoria Vikes would like to be there, too. But they won’t get an automatic bye into the nationals like the Bisons. There’s no home cookin’ for the Vikes, who will have to earn their way in.
That process continues today at 5 p.m. at Centennial Stadium when the Vikes (1-1-1) take on undefeated Manitoba (1-0-1) in Canada West action.
“The Bisons are getting ready to perform at nationals,” said Tracy David, head coach of the Vikes.
“Last year, they reached the Canada West Final Six for the first time. They are well organized, defend in numbers, and have a counter attack that can hurt you. They work hard and play well in their system.”
The Vikes were ranked in the U Sports national top-10 last week after beginning the season with a 1-0 upset over the highly regarded UBC Thunderbirds. UVic, however, tumbled out of the top-10 just as fast after gaining only one of a possible six points in a difficult swing last weekend through the Lower Mainland that included a 2-2 tie against a very good Fraser Valley Cascades team in Abbotsford and a 2-1 loss against Trinity Western in Langley on a late goal in the 82nd minute against a Spartans team that was then ranked No. 3 in the country.
“In the first half, I thought we were the better side against Trinity Western, and our only mistake was not scoring,” said David.
“That gave Trinity Western confidence and the momentum swung in the second half.”
The chances have been there for a youthful but energetic Vikes side, but finishing has been an issue.
“We have a young and exciting squad that plays up-tempo, with speed and high energy. We need to be willing to attack and have confidence in our attacking abilities,” said David.
Among the youth brigade is defender Bria Christie, who has earned a starting spot as a true freshman out of Royal Bay Secondary. Her pace is evident in that she was the 400-metre hurdles champion last spring at the B.C. high school track and field championships.
“She has started for us as a freshman and has been tremendous,” said David.
The Manitoba theme continues Saturday for the Vikes when they play the University of Winnipeg Wesmen (0-1-1) at 5 p.m. at Centennial Stadium.
It’s more of an Alberta vibe for the UVic Vikes men’s soccer homestand tonight against the MacEwan Griffins (1-3) of Edmonton at 7:15 p.m. and Sunday versus the Mount Royal Cougars (1-2-1) of Calgary at 2 p.m.
The Vikes are 1-4-1 and need to make a splash this weekend at home to climb back into the Canada West playoff race.
“We should be in the mix in Canada West,” said UVic coach Bruce Wilson, of his talent pool.
“But we need better starts. We have given up a goal in the first five minutes in three games this season and twice two goals in the first eight minutes. You are not going to win too many games in this sport by falling behind like that so early. We need to come out ready to play.”