FROM ROOKIES TO VETS, NEW TITLE THIRST FUELS SPARTANS WOMEN'S SOCCER TEAM

TWU-UBC men’s soccer clash truly time to throw records, rankings and predictions out the window
By Howard Tsumura - Vancouver Province - LINK to Story

The rains are threatening to fall tonight when one of B.C.’s most hotly-contested university sports rivalries renews another chapter in its hard-hitting history.

But even without the wet stuff falling down, you can wash out the rankings and the records every time the Trinity Western Spartans and the UBC Thunderbirds engage in a Canada West men’s soccer match.

Heading into tonight’s 7 p.m. clash at TWU’s Rogers Park, the defending national finalist Thunderbirds (2-0) carry with them the momentum of a combined eight-goal opening weekend and a No. 2 CIS ranking when face the host and unranked Spartans (1-1).

But history shows that this cross-mainland rivalry has reached true derby status.

Over the past five seasons, including playoffs, UBC holds a 6-5-2 edge in the overall series, but nine of the 13 matches have either been decided by either a goal, ended in a draw or gone to penalty kicks.

And perhaps most telling, on a pair of occasions, an unranked team has come in and beaten a nationally ranked team. In 2008, UBC beat a No. 3-ranked TWU team 3-0, and that was followed by an unranked TWU side beating a No. 2-ranked UBC squad 2-1 on penalty kicks (4-3) in the Canada West conference semifinals.

That latter scenario mirrors tonight’s game, a contest which Spartans’ head coach Pat Rohla knows won’t be any kind of walk in the park for either side.

“They are full tilt sessions,” Rohla said following a training session with his team on Wednesday evening. “We respect each other but we want to go after each other. That is a part of the DNA of both programs and it’s been like for 10 years.”

Take last season for example.

UBC, which is currently 3-0-1 against the Spartans the past two seasons, opened the 2010 campaign with a 3-0 win in which 12 yellow cards and two reds were issued. The second meeting finished in a 2-2 draw after the ‘Birds scored the tying goal in added time. In total, the last two meetings produced 16 yellows and three reds.

From its perspective, getting a positive showing tonight would help galvanize the new line-up Rohla has constructed.

Plagued by injuries for much of last season and perplexed by its inability to score and gain results on the road, the Spartans missed the conference playoffs for the first time since 2002 and the national tournament for the first time since 2004.

But with Goran Vitic and Brayden Volkenant both back to full health and able to contribute in their respective roles of attack and defence, there is a feeling of optimism in the Spartan camp that it can quickly put its 5-5-4 conference record of a season ago to rest.

As well, the additions of former University of Washington and Fraser Valley forward Spencer Schmidt and Whitecaps residency midfielder Brayden Gant are seen as substantial additions, Schmidt scoring once and setting up the dramatic winner last Saturday at the Spartans edged Victoria 2-1 on Saturday.

“I think every team has their weather-vein player,” Rohla says of Schmidt, an Abbotsford native who spent time with Canada’s Under-17 team. “How that player goes is how your team goes, and I don’t think it’s any secret that UBC will key on him.”

The Spartans will have a number of quality offensive threats to contend with on a UBC team which returned virtually every player that scored for them a season ago.

Marco Visintin has already notched three goals, while Sean Haley and Navid Mashinchi have two apiece. Last season’s goal-scoring leader Gagan Dosanjh has also scored.

“Mosher is good coach and he has his guys wired up,” Rohla says of UBC head coach Mike Mosher. “They’re going to come after us. If you can’t get up and elevate your game for UBC, you are going to come out of a tough night. You have to be ready for them because they have a complete team. If you can’t match their aggresion to start the contest, the class of your players will never show. You have to be ready to answer the bell and when the time comes to go, you gotta go.”

@htsumura

htsumura@theprovincecom

Last Updated: 2012-03-07
Author: Mark Janzen