’Birds sqeeze by Griffins, move on to Canada West Final, secure USport championship spot

UBC women’s soccer is heading to the Canada West Select Six gold medal match after a late 1-0 win against the MacEwan Griffins on Saturday night.

“It’s a big, big deal for sure, for this team and for this program,” said head coach Jesse Symons of the win. “It’s what we expect to do and we wanted it today ... Credit to the players to really fight through and create a ton of goal chances, and not stop until one went in before 90 minutes was up.”

After a lengthy delay at Chase Office Field in Langely, BC due to pitch conditions from the heavy rainfall, UBC central midfielder Jasmin Mander pulled out some last-minute heroics to secure the T-Birds a spot in the Canada West finals and the USport championships, formerly known as the CIS, next weekend.

“I feel great,” said Mander of her second goal of the season. “To have that, it’s a massive team goal for us. It’s a goal that puts us through to nationals, so if it’s only a two-goal year, it’s a good one to get for me. I’m glad.”

UBC caused MacEwan some trouble early, managing to find the back of the net in the fourth minute as forward Jasmin Dhanda crossed the ball into the box for fellow forward Shayla Chorney. MacEwan keeper Emily Burns got her hands on the ball, but it slipped through her gloves and Chorney headed it over the goal line. Unfortunately, a foul was called on the play and no goal was awarded to the ’Birds.

Just over 10 minutes later, Dhanda got a shot of her own as she got on the end of a pass-back from Chorney. Her shot clattered off the crossbar, keeping the teams tied at 0-0.

Though the T-Birds held possession for much of the first 45 minutes, the Griffins started to come alive just before halftime, evening up the match in terms of possession and movement forward. The string of back-and-forth passing plays from either side didn’t amount to any goals though and the teams headed back to their benches scoreless at halftime.

In the second half, it wasn’t until the 82nd minute that either team had a convincing chance on net. With UBC earning a corner, midfielder Reetu Johal stepped up to take it. Sending the ball through the box, Mander got on the end of the ball and headed it towards net. It sailed just over the crossbar and MacEwan narrowly escaped another UBC attack.

The Griffins' luck wouldn’t last though, as the ’Birds finally put the ball in the back of the net in the 85th. Blasting the ball from outside the 18-yard box, Mander saw her shot deflect off the inside of the crossbar, deflect off Burns and coast across MacEwan’s goal line.

The 1-0 score would stand until the final whistle, sending UBC to the Canada West finals against Trinity Western on Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m.

“I think a performance like today would be great tomorrow. I’m sure we’ll be on a high after winning today,” said Symons of the upcoming gold medal match. “It’s a big rivalry. Trinity and UBC have a long history over the last number of years and yeah, we’ll be ready. It’s probably the game everyone wanted ... and hopefully it’s a good performance by two teams that definitely know each other well.”

The win also solidifies a spot for UBC in the USport championships next weekend hosted by Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia.