Heartbreak at U Sports nationals for men's and women's soccer

It wasn’t the ending that either the men’s or women’s soccer team had dreamt of.

The women’s team came agonizingly close to a berth in the finals to defend their national crown, only to fall in two heartbreakers and finish fourth in the nation. As for the men, a familiar pattern repeated itself as they flamed out in the quarterfinals.

Cape Breton played host to the U Sports Women’s Soccer Championships held between November 18 and 21. The Thunderbirds had a busy first day in action, taking on the Atlantic University Sport champions, the Acadia Axewomen.

The T-Birds came out flying to start, playing some of their best soccer of the year. It would be a challenge to break down the Axewomen, who held firm despite the disadvantage in possession. They tested T-Birds goalkeeper Emily Moore too, who was excellent in her part.

After a scoreless first half, Aislin Philips would be the one to break the deadlock. The first-year pounced on a loose ball outside of the box, firing it past the Acadia keeper to give UBC the lead in the 50th minute. The lead wouldn’t last long in the 68th, as Acadia’s Jayden Boudreau knotted the match back up off a corner tally.

90 minutes came and went, and another 30 of extra time passed by too. It would take penalty kicks to decide this one. Katalin Tolnai, Sophie Damian and Danielle Steer scored their spot-kicks while Moore stopped two of the three that she faced, sending the T-Birds through to the semifinals with a 2–1 victory.

The T-Birds came out flying to start, playing some of their best soccer of the year.
The T-Birds came out flying to start, playing some of their best soccer of the year. File Diana Hong

Facing off against the MacEwan Griffins next, — the team they beat 2–0 en route to a Canada West final, — UBC was ready to play. However, as the match wore on, the Griffins began to get their legs under them as well. It quickly became a match where the teams traded blows, with dramatic end-to-end action that needed more than 90 minutes to decide.

Unfortunately for the T-Birds, MacEwan would take took their opportunity to strike. In the 96th, Megan Lemoine poked home a corner chance past Moore. It was all they needed in this cage match to send them into a dream run to the finals. Cinderella would not have lose her glass slipper either, as the Griffins claimed the national title against Trinity Western.

UBC played against the Laval Rouge-et-Or in the bronze medal match, heading to penalties for the second time in the tournament. This one wouldn’t have such a happy ending, as the former defending national champions would fall to fourth in the nation as Laval claimed the bronze medal.

After a season year that saw a historic season by for Danielle Steer and going nearly undefeated, the T-Birds’s to fourth-place finish came as a bit of a shock. That being said, there is a lot to be proud of, especially with how this team is developing for the future. Though the T-Birds are bidding farewell to some key veterans, this is a very young group and a very talented one that is looking to continue the strong tradition of winning.

That being said, there is a lot to be proud of, especially with how this team is developing for the future.
That being said, there is a lot to be proud of, especially with how this team is developing for the future. File Isabella Falsetti

For the men, they ventured to Ottawa for their National Championship. After a shaky regular season, the T-Birds claimed yet another Canada West crown heading into the competition. They faced the host Carleton Ravens in the first match of their campaign.

UBC jumped out to a quick 2–0 lead, looking in their best form this year. Nick Fussell and Nicholas Momotani struck in the first half as the T-Birds headed into the break with a 2–0 cushion.

That bubble unfortunately burst in the second half. The Ravens scored twice to force extra time, and when no one scored there it went to penalties, where the Ravens won 5–3, with their goalkeeper Kyle Potter making a crucial save.

It’s a concerning pattern that has emerged for the T-Birds, who’ve found ways to drop points in winning positions throughout their season.

This result relegated them to the consolation semifinals, where they faced off against Laval as well. Doryan Soualem would score the only goal of the first half to give the Rouge-et-Or the lead before both offences exploded in the second.

Three goals were scored in the first ten minutes of the second half, as UBC’s Tristan Nkoghe tied the game in the 49th, Wassim Chaouki of Laval made it 2–1 in the 51st, then T-Birds’ Markus Kaiser tied it again in the 55th. Unfortunately, that would be the closest UBC got as Chaouki scored a second in the 67th and Baptiste Toussaint added insurance in the 81st. With the 4–2 loss, the T-Birds finished their year on a sour note. After so much promise, the journey came to an end in the consolation semifinals.

It’s a concerning pattern that has emerged for the T-Birds, who’ve found ways to drop points in winning positions throughout their season.
It’s a concerning pattern that has emerged for the T-Birds, who’ve found ways to drop points in winning positions throughout their season. File Diana Hong

The results might be a little disappointing, but for both teams, there were much to be proud of in their first season returning to action. They now both look to a spring of training to improve and get better when the next season rolls around.