Vikes soccer teams look to hit playoffs on a roll

The University of Victoria Vikes men’s and women’s soccer teams know they will be in the Canada West playoff quarter-finals next weekend. But just where that will be is like trying to guess what next week’s weather will be like or what the spring fashions will be in May.

It’s all about positioning this weekend when the Vikes teams close out the regular season at Centennial Stadium today and Saturday.

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The UVic men (4-3-3) can finish between second and fourth place in the seven-team Pacific Division. The nationally second-ranked UBC Thunderbirds (9-0-1) have clinched first place and will host a playoff quarter-final next weekend against the Prairie Division fourth seed, while the Pacific Division second-place finisher will welcome the Prairie third seed.

The Pacific third and fourth seeds will travel to face the Prairie Division first and second seeds. That’s a trip the Vikes would like to avoid, making the regular-season finales tonight against the Trinity Western Spartans and Saturday against the Fraser Valley Cascades crucial fixtures. The Spartans and Cascades are both 5-3-2 and will join the Vikes in the playoffs, with the positioning between them to be settled this weekend.

Both games are at 7:15 p.m. at Centennial Stadium and represent the final regular-season home fixtures in the standout, quick-strike careers of goal-scoring Vikes seniors Cam Hundal and Craig Gorman.

“It’s hard to believe those five years have gone by so quickly,” said Vikes head coach Bruce Wilson.

“Both Hundal and Gorman have given so much to our program and have been great ambassadors for the school. This weekend represents a tremendous stage for them, and the rest of the guys, to step up. We want to finish second and stay home next weekend for the first round of the playoffs and not have to travel across the Rockies. It’s in our hands. We had a strong week of practice and I feel we’re ready.”

The UVic women (7-2-3) close out their regular season tonight against Trinity Western (9-1-2) and Saturday against Fraser Valley (8-3-1), with both games at 5 p.m. at Centennial Stadium.

Only five points separate second and fourth place in the division. It’s a tough division, to be sure, with first-place UBC (10-1-1) ranked fourth nationally in the CIS, Trinity Western sixth, UVic ninth and Fraser Valley an honourable mention.

“We can finish anywhere from second to fifth. That’s how close this division is this year,” said Vikes head coach Tracy David.

“The good thing is that it’s in our hands to control.”

It’s a different playoff format for the women, with the top-six from the Pacific and Prairie divisions making the playoffs.

David noted the keys to the final regular-season weekend for the Vikes revolve around getting the ball to go through senior striker Emma Greig, who has three goals and five assists on the season.

“We have to be mobile in the centre of the park, so we can spring out of the midfield, and help Emma up front,” said David.

Key to making that happen are midfielders Stephanie Badilla-Gutierrez, Emily Lieuwen and senior Shannon Elder. So is Mia Gunter, an Edmonton product who came to the Vikes this year from the NCAA Pac-12 University of Oregon Ducks.

“Mia brings experience and we will need her experience this weekend,” said David.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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