'Birds crowned Canada West champions once again with victories over Vikes

The Thunderbirds women’s field hockey team haven’t lost a game in an insane amount of time — since the 2015 championships opener against the University of Guelph Gryphons. Going on two years since starting their incredible unbeaten streak, the ’Birds show no sign of slowing down anytime soon.

This past weekend, the ’Birds once again proved they are a force to be reckoned with as they defeated their rivals — the University Victoria Vikes — twice, clinching their 10th Canada West title in the last 11 years of Canada West play. The last encounter these two teams had was the Canada West season opening doubleheader in Victoria, where the T-Birds were held to a 1-1 tie in the first game before coming back for a dominating 3-0 win in the second.

This past doubleheader seemed to get off to a similar start in the first game on Saturday, with both teams battling each other closely and keeping the other out of goal-scoring range. As the second half got underway, a tie seemed like the inevitable outcome.

UVic's Kristina Walters-Shumka makes a pass.
UVic's Kristina Walters-Shumka makes a pass. Patrick Gillin

At least that was the case until the 52nd minute, when ’Birds defender Sophie Jones fired a shot past Vikes goalie Robin Fleming to put the home team up 1-0. Twelve minutes later, UBC mid-defender Meghan Hayden played in perfectly off a pass from forward Abby MacLellan to beat Fleming once more and give UBC a 2-0 lead — Victoria would not be able to make up the difference.

’Birds goalie Rowan Harris played all 70 minutes of the game and was solid in her third shutout performance of the year.

UBC moves the ball upfield in the second half of Sunday's game.
UBC moves the ball upfield in the second half of Sunday's game. Salomon Micko Benrimoh

Sunday’s game was just as fierce between both teams. The Vikes were looking for some revenge for the previous outing and the ’Birds had another win and a Canada West title in their sights — a tie would have sufficed to clinch the title for the ’Birds too.

Margaret Pham opened the scoring in the 22nd minute to give the ’Birds the early lead. That lead would only last a half hour, as a penalty card against UBC’s Sophie Jones in the 52nd minute gave the Vikes the necessary momentum to get one past Rowan Harris and tie the game with just under 17 minutes left in the match.

Play remained mostly in the centre of the field for the rest of the game, as both teams fought vigorously for control in the dying minutes — UBC would be the ones to break the stalemate. With just under two minutes left to play, the ’Birds pushed the ball deep into Vikes territory. It would be Meghan Hayden who finally sunk the Vikes ship, as she battled hard before beating the Vikes goalie and spoiling the visitors' comeback.

Hayden’s goal gave the ’Birds the win and the Canada West title.

UBC will conclude their season this weekend at home with another doubleheader against the University of Calgary Dinos on October 14 and 15. They will then get a period of rest before gearing up for the U Sports Championships in the first week of November.

As Canada West champions, the ’Birds will host nationals here at UBC.

A last-minute victory, a title-clinching goal only 75 per cent of the way into the season and a nearly two-year-long winning streak: now that’s plenty for the ‘Birds to be thankful for this Thanksgiving!

UBC walks off after continuing their undefeated streak.
UBC walks off after continuing their undefeated streak. Patrick Gillin