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  1. After having an early 6th minute goal from Kym van Duynhoven disallowed for offside, UBC finally got the breakthrough that counted in the 18th minute, with a fantastic volleyed finish from Madison Guy over the Spartans keeper. TWU had a chance to tie things up on the half hour mark, but UBC goalkeeper Olivia de Goede denied Jenaya Robertson with some strong play. It was a huge stop and the Thunderbirds went up the pitch and immediately doubled their lead when Shayla Chorney tucked away a Jasmin Dhanda cross. There was to be no looking back for UBC now and they added a third in the 65th minute in the all-BC battle, after poor TWU defending at a corner saw the ball deflect off Taylor Shannik and loop over Ally Williamson in the Spartans goal. The final whistle sparked jubilant celebrations from the Thunderbirds players and coaching staff, and you can enjoy some of those moments in the video below: The 3-0 victory saw UBC become the most decorated team in CIS Women's soccer, edging one Championship ahead of Trinity Western, and it was a fully deserved triumph. "I'm just extremely proud of the girls," UBC head coach Marisa Kovacs told AFTN after the match. "From just turning things around for themselves. Walking in, I knew we had talent, it was just putting it together. The girls had belief from the very beginning and saw this goal at the end and really wanted it and put in the hard work. "I'm just really proud of them. They deserve this. For them to achieve it, it's huge. It's one thing to have a goal and to set a goal but it's another to work yourself into the opportunity to achieve it and they did that." A fantastic victory for the team and a personal triumph for Kovacs in her first year as UBC head coach. Kovacs replaced Canadian Hall of Famer Andrea Neill in January, after spells in charge of the SFU Clan and the University of West Georgia, along with Surrey United in the BCPL. In her first season in charge, Kovacs took UBC from a middling 6-4-2 Canada West regular season record in 2014 to an 11-1-2 record in 2015 and a Conference title. It's been a fantastic season for everyone at the Thunderbirds, but as she went to bed on Saturday night, such a dominant performance in the CIS Championship game must have been even beyond her dreams. "Yeah, a 3-0 scoreline, I don't think I would have predicted," Kovacs admitted to us. "But you know what, to be fair to Trinity, they have some knocks to some quality players. At this point of the season I think we're all kinda knocked a bit! They play us tough every game. "So much respect for coach Graham [Roxburgh]. He does a great job there. They've been to the Finals the last four years. We knew it would be a tough match, but yeah, a 3-0 victory, I'm extremely happy with that." Sunday's title success will have surprised some in the Canadian college scene. It shouldn't have. Under Kovacs, UBC have put together and developed an excellent crop of young female talent. Despite losing just one game during the regular season, UBC headed in to the nationals ranked just fourth overall in the nation and seeded second, after York and Ottawa failed to qualify. Coming off an undefeated season, Laval were the favourites heading in to the nationals, and despite seeing off Trinity Western, who had been national champs in four of the last six seasons, not many gave UBC a chance to win their first CIS Championship since 2006. Was there a feeling amongst the squad that their talent and achievements this season weren't fully appreciated? "You know what, a little bit, to be honest," Kovacs admitted. "We were maybe taken lightly at times, but I think that suited us well. Kind of being the underdog and, at times, players playing with a little bit of a chip on their shoulder, with something to prove. And it worked for us, so hopefully we can continue this and continue to have success." Part of that feeling of being underappreciated comes from the end of season awards, routinely handed out in college soccer. As mentioned, UBC topped the Canada West standings during the regular season, quickly going on to win the Conference title, and now the national title. That was achieved with just one loss the whole year, 41 goals for, just 9 against, and 13 clean sheets. Impressive stuff, but not enough to impress the awards decision makers apparently. In the Canada West awards, there was no recognition in any of the individual categories, with only striker Jasmin Dhanda making it onto the First Team All-Stars. In the CIS end of season awards, no Thunderbird was even nominated, never mind won, the Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year or Coach of the Year. No UBC player made the CIS All-Canadian First Team either. Dhanda did make the Second Team. As a side not, Dhanda also won the Championship game and Tournament MVP. At the end of the day, football is a team sport and individual awards are just a nice additional cherry on top recognition, but still, this apparent snub to UBC was perhaps one of the best motivational factors Kovacs and her coach staff could impart to their team. "I think it was motivation for the girls," Kovacs told us. "We wanted to gain a little respect, from the rest of the nation maybe, and I think, hopefully, we finally did that. But the girls even said we're not here for individual awards, we were here to win the big one. And we won the big one." That they did. Congratulations to everyone involved with the Thunderbirds from us here at AFTN. A great season. The team won't be losing too many players to graduation this year either, so hopefully a good, solid base for further successes in 2016 and beyond. You can see some photos, primarily of the postgame celebrations, in the Flickr slideshow below: ********** This isn't the end of AFTN's Thunderbirds Week coverage. We're running it Wednesday to Tuesday this year after all of the Whitecaps playoff coverage pushed it back a little. So come back on Monday and Tuesday for two pieces on the UBC's men's and women's goalkeepers - Chad Bush and Olivia de Goede.
  2. You can see the highlights of the match below: UBC's Men now face a match worthy of the Championship game when they take on the number one seeded hosts, and defending CIS champions, the York Lions. The game kicks off at 10.30pm PT and you can watch it live, and for free, HERE. UBC's Women are hosting this year's nationals and they ground out a tough 1-0 victory over Calgary Dinos in horrendous conditions at Thunderbird Stadium on Thursday evening. With the rain pouring down and extra time looming, Kym van Duynhoven rose to head home a Taylor Shannik cross with 15 seconds of normal time remaining, to spark jubilant scenes amongst the home team and fans. You can watch highlights of the game below: UBC's Women now play host to Sherbrooke Vert et Or in Saturday's semi-final in their quest for their sixth CIS title and their first one since 2006. The game kicks off at 4.30pm PT at Thunderbird Stadium. Get along if you can, but if you can't, you can watch it on the link above. Good luck to both teams. Make Vancouver even prouder.
  3. It's been another stellar season for the UBC Thunderbirds, one they hope will end on Sunday in Toronto with their raising of their 14th CIS National Championship. The Thunderbirds finished the regular season with 10 wins and 2 draws from their 12 divisional matches. They only conceded a staggering five goals, banging in 31 at the other end in the process. They added another two in their Canada West quarter-final and semi-final match-ups before being made to work hard last weekend in a 2-1 extra time win over UVic Vikes that saw UBC crowned Canada West Champions for a record 16th time. Heading into this week's nationals to compete against the best college sides in Canada, head coach Mike Mosher believes having such a stern test in the Canada West playoffs has been the best preparation his team could get. "Dave Hendrie [assistant coach] and I were having a chat and we were saying we've had some tough tests," Mosher told AFTN after Saturday's Canada West Championship success. "Yesterday [in the semi final against Fraser Valley], last week against Saskatchewan. So we've had regular difficult games. The scorelines may not indicate it. Yesterday was not easy, nor was the Saskatchewan game. "So yeah, the more competitive games you can get the better. The challenge is when you're into this, you played last night, you have to play again tonight, you have to fly across the country on Monday and then you're playing hopefully three games in four days next week. Both teams are conserving players a little bit but you still want to lift a trophy at the end of the day, so we're very happy with that." Mosher was named Canada West Coach of the Year for the second time in three seasons. It's the third time that Mosher has won the accolade in his 19 seasons leading the Thunderbirds. With six Canada West titles already under his belt, he's now looking for his fifth CIS Championship to cap off what has been another excellent season for UBC. What makes it even more impressive is that once again, Mosher had to rebuild a lot of his squad after losing a number of veterans at the end of last season. Those numbers included all three goalkeepers, defensive leader Paul Clerc, the prolific Niall Cousens and last year's Canada West MVP, former Whitecap player, Navid Mashinchi. It's all just part of the difficult process of being a college coach, but one which UBC always seem to handle really well. "We knew we were losing guys," Mosher told us. "Shoot, we've lost top players probably four or five years in a row. We've turned over, on average, three first team Conference All-Stars every year. We've been fortunate. We've recruited well. We've developed well within the system. We've had players waiting in the wings to come in right away. "This coming year, there was a few questions, but I think we always knew that we were going to be in every game. One, with a goalkeeper like Chad [bush] coming in, a top quality goalkeeper. We definitely put a goal at the start of the season to be the lowest conceding team in our Conference, because at the end of the day, clean sheets win games." Former Ottawa Fury goalkeeper Chad Bush has perhaps been the biggest addition to this season's Thunderbirds squad. A 19-year-old Bush was named the USL PDL Goalkeeper of the Year in 2013 and he's been dominant in the UBC defence this year, recording eight clean sheets during the regular season, including six straight to start off October, and adding a further two in the playoffs. With only six goals conceded all year, that defensive strength will serve the Thunderbirds well in the nationals. But they'll have a tough job on their hands if they are to lift their 14th title. Despite their unbeaten season and number one ranking for much of the year, UBC find themselves seeded fourth heading into nationals. That will likely set up a huge semi-final clash with the number one seeds, OUA champions and defending CIS champions, the hosting York Lions, on Saturday. Before they get there, the Thunderbirds kick off their tournament on Thursday with a semi-final match-up against the fifth seeds, and OUA bronze medallists, Toronto Varsity Blues. Whoever the Thunderbirds end up facing, Mosher knows his side have a tough road ahead and coming off their second undefeated season in four years, it's likely UBC will have a target on their backs from the eastern teams. "I think everybody's going to be good out there," Mosher mused. "I've seen the teams that are all in. It's all one and two seeds from their Conference. Hey, everybody's got a target because it's win or go home. It's the nature of the tournament. "Certainly there's always maybe a little bit of motivation to go and beat a team like us, but maybe there's also a little bit of 'shoot, we don't want to play UBC in the first game' as well." UNB Varsity Reds (AUS champs and number two seeds), UQAM Citadins (RSEQ champs and number three seeds), McMaster Marauders (sixth seeds), Victoria Vikes (seventh seeds) and Cape Breton Capers (eight seeds) make up the rest of the field. With four different Conferences and teams spread out all over the country, scouting opponents can be made somewhat more difficult, but Mosher is confident his team will be more than prepared for whoever they come up against. "I think film covers enough," Mosher said. "I've seen most of the teams now in the last couple of days that's going to be there. Sometimes as coaches you maybe watch too much film and you worry maybe more about the opponent. "I say to these boys a lot, 'it's about us'. It's about us getting it right what we do. We'll prepare you for what you're up against and what you need to know but I think we've seen enough." UBC kick off their 2015 campaign at 1pm PST on Thursday and you'll be able to watch the game HERE. The Thunderbirds are going to have the toughest route if they are to claim their record breaking 14th CIS title. But their history at the nationals should convince anyone that they're more than capable of doing it. Everyone at the Thunderbirds is certainly convinced. "Our record's been pretty good at the tournament, when we've gotten there on a regular basis. We've gotten to the final every time, out of probably 17 plus times. So I think we're well prepared for it. We're going to get out of here early on Monday and get the travel behind us and get the training sessions in there. "We're looking forward to it. These guys are a confident group. They're not a cocky group but they're a confident group, and they want to lift trophies."
  4. The game ended 0-0, with both teams having their chances. UBC shaded the first half, with 'Caps goalkeeper Spencer Richey being forced into a couple of big saves, while Caleb Clarke had WFC2's best chance, sprinting clear before drilling low into Thunderbirds keeper Luke O'Shea. The Whitecaps went with nearly an entirely different team for the second half, and dominated proceedings. Bustos was particularly impressive and creating a number of chances and having a shot cleared off the line after a mazy run past a number of UBC defenders and the goalkeeper. It deserved a goal. Kianz Froese also had an effort scrambled off the goalline and the 'Caps had a number of chances fly narrowly past the post but couldn't find the back of the net. For a first run out of his squad, Koch was happy with a lot of what he saw against a talented and well organised UBC side joking with AFTN after the match that "we've got a bunch of guys who really don't know each others names at this stage, some guys do, some guys don't". In jest, but true. While a number of the players are very familiar with each other's style of play from playing together in the Whitecaps Residency and PDL teams, most of the squad have only been together for two weeks now. That was the thinking behind the make up of the two teams that Koch put out there for the game. Despite the strong showing, the new 'Caps coach knows there's still a lot of work to do to get the team ready for the season ahead. "We mixed up our group completely," Koch told AFTN after the game. "We're obviously trying to figure out who's going to play for us come our first game in a few week's time. I thought we were good. We were organised, we were relatively sound defensively, created a few opportunities. Obviously we didn't have a sense of conviction in front of net. For our first game, you can't really expect much but we got through it. It's an exercise in order to get ready for the next game." Defensively, Richey and Marco Carducci shared the goalkeeping duties, playing a half each. Farmer was looking sharp in the right back role, getting forward on a number of plays in the first half, while Christian Dean marshalled the centre of defence for that first 45, alongside 2015 SuperDraft pick Craig Nitti. Described by Koch as "big, strong, eager to learn", Loyola Marymount University graduate Nitti played with the Portland Timbers U23 in 2013 and has just trained with the 'Caps for a week following surgery on a foot injury. The club will need to make a decision on him soon. He's a big lad and certainly looked a dominating presence alongside Dean back there, but that position has so many other strong options right now. Fellow SuperDraft pick Tim Parker played in the backline for the second half alongside Residency alumni Derrick Bassi, and both did well and looked comfortable. While Nitti will continue to get a look for now, one draft pick who has already left the camp is Canadian centre back Nikola Paunic and there are no plans for him to be with the team moving forward. Dean played the whole game, switching to left back for the second half, while Ethen Sampson came on and played on the right. The Whitecaps desire moving forward is for all their teams to play to the same philosophy. Defensively sound, fast paced going forward. For now, that means a 4-2-3-1 formation. Ben McKendry and Brett Levis took on those roles in the first half, with Mitch Piraux and captain Tyler Rosenlund coming on for the second. Elsewhere in the midfield, winger Sahil Sandhu (pictured left) got a run out in the first half and has impressed in camp so far. Sandhu has been playing with VMSL side ICST Pegasus and finished second in the VMSL goalscoring charts with 12 goals this season, one behind former TFC player Nick Soolsma of Langley Hurricanes. What the 'Caps won't want to see is WFC2 suffering the same goalscoring woes as the first team. All build up and no finish. It was on display against UBC. The sharpness and clinical eye for goal wasn't quite there yet, but it's certainly very early days for the team to gel and the Thunderbirds are not a team that give up many goals at the best of times. One player who won't be banging in the goals for WFC2 though is UBC striker Niall Cousens. The former 'Caps PDL player was in camp initially with WFC2 but has already been released and lined up for the Thunderbirds last night. Disappointing, as we've liked what we've seen of Cousens for both the Whitecaps and UBC the last couple of years and he would have added a much needed aerial threat up front. Koch has Caleb Clarke to call upon in the striking capacity, and 2014 draft pick Mackenzie Pridham (see our feature with him from last February HERE) played the second half last night and looked to have some potential as he battles back from an injury plagued year. But the 'Caps coach still has his eye out for one or two more additions to his squad, especially up front. "We are looking at a couple of other guys," Koch told us. "We're trying to see if we can get another striker. I think everyone in football is looking for a striker because you need somebody to put the ball in the back of the net, so we're definitely looking. "I don't think we're in a panic because we didn't score any goals in our first friendly, but we're always looking to upgrade, to get better. We'll work with what we've got but we are looking for one or two other players too." What Koch definitely has with his current squad though is competition for places. That was clearly evident in a WFC2 intrasquad game I took in last week, with the 'B' team, for want of a better description, running out 3-1 winners over a side many could predict would be close to a starting line-up come the first game. That competition and hunger will continue to increase as the season gets closer and it's just what Koch and the club want to see. "There's a lot of competition," Koch told us. "We've got at least two good players in every position, which is nice, and that's why in that game there was that competition. Tonight, we're playing against outside competition, so we had two different groups that played in the first 45 and the second 45. "The guys know it. They know they're competing for spots. It adds a little bit of pressure on them and I think some guys played tonight with a couple of weights on their shoulders and I think as soon as they realise they don't need to play like that and they need to go out there and play with confidence, the better they're going to be and the better we're going be as a group too." WFC2 have three more friendly matches scheduled before the USL season kicks off in 19 days, travelling down to Seattle on Sunday to face Sounders 2, before finishing off the preseason with games against SFU on March 19th and Oregon State on March 22nd. By the time those final couple of games come around, we should have a better idea of just what shape and make-up the squad will have going into the opening match.
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