It was an odd weekend, to say the least, for the men’s soccer team as they travelled to Prince George for a double-header against the University of Northern BC (UNBC) Timberwolves. What is typically an easy match up for the ’Birds left some scratching their heads this time.
The ’Birds northern road trip started off unexpectedly on Friday, as the team lost 1-0 to the Timberwolves. The loss marks UBC’s first defeat to UNBC since the Prince George based university joined the league in 2012.
Throughout the game, the ’Birds looked disorganized with a visible lack of transition play upfield. Their usual strength up front from players like strikers Victory Shumbusho and Zach Verhoven was squandered by the Timberwolves defence and the Canada-West-leading UBC side showed little in terms of creativity in finding their way to the net.
Even so, the team held on for much of the first half to keep the Timberwolves at bay. It would take 41 minutes for UNBC to finally end the scoring draught. With UNBC midfielder Brett Bobier sending a beautiful through ball upfield, Timberwolves forward Stuart Rowlands chipped T-Birds goalie Chad Bush from outside the box, putting the home team up 1-0.
The ’Birds only clear chance of the match came early in the second, when defender Manraj Bains blasted a shot from just inside the box. It ricocheted off the post, though, keeping UBC off the score sheet.
With the final whistle, hopes of a comeback quickly dissipated. UBC ended the match down one goal and facing their second loss in as many games.
On Saturday, the ’Birds were a different team. With two goals each half, UBC had a more commanding presence against the Prince George side.
Shumbusho opened the scoring for the T-Birds in the 21st minute, upping his season tally to seven goals. Midfielder Mackenzie Cole swiftly followed suit, heading the ball past UNBC keeper Tyrone Venhola off a free kick in the 34th minute.
In the second half, the ’Birds widened the gap even more with a goal from forward Luke Griffin in the 64th and from midfielder Patrick Izett in the 77th — both were the first goals of the season for each player.
The small glimmer of hope for UNBC came in the 71st minute as midfielder Cody Gysbers sent a free kick past T-Bird goalie Chad Bush and into the top left corner of the net. It wouldn’t be enough though to close in on UBC and the match ended 4-1 for the visiting side.
Though the Thunderbirds still leads the Pacific Division with a 6-2-1 record, other teams like UBC Okanagan are starting to catch up and have games in hand. Now just over mid-way through the season, the ’Birds will need to pick up their game if they hope to stay the best in the West.
The ’Birds continue their road trip next weekend as they head to the island to face the University of Victoria Vikes on October 5. Two days later, the ’Birds face the Vikes at UBC. Kick off is set for 2:15 p.m. on October 7.