BOYD BUOYED BY HOME PLAYOFF DATE AS SPARTANS HOST CW FINAL FOUR

Nat Boyd

BOYD BUOYED BY HOME PLAYOFF DATE AS SPARTANS HOST CW FINAL FOUR

By Howard Tsumura - Vancouver Province - LINK to Story

LANGLEY British Co lmubia— Natalie Boyd was reduced to a spectator’s role the last time her school played host to the Canada West Final Four women’s soccer championships, so it was pretty hard to miss the sense of anticipation in the voice of the standout midfielder with Langley’s No. 2-ranked Trinity Western Spartans (12-1-1).

“There is just something about playing at Spartan Park,” Boyd said Thursday of her Langley school’s home field in advance of Friday’s 5 p.m. conference semifinal clash against the Victoria Vikes (7-4-3), a pivotal match which earns its winner a spot in the CIS national championship tournament draw and the right to play Saturday for the Canada West title. “Our team is beyond excited, but for me personally, multiply that 100 times because it’s my first home playoff game.”

That’s because back in her rookie season of 2009, after establishing herself as a regular on a TWU team which fashioned a first-place 11-2-1 record during the regular season, the Surrey-Sullivan Heights grad suffered a serious ankle injury on the eve of the conference playoffs, which her team had earned the right to host.

The Spartans not only won the Canada West that year, but advanced to the national championships in Toronto where it captured the school’s second straight national title.

“I could have gone (to nationals) but I wanted to get my recovery started early,” remembers the eager Boyd, who that summer made the Vancouver Whitecaps roster. “It was a tough year,working hard all year and then not getting the chance to go. But I was so happy we won. And I was able to watch all of the games (via computer) and (assistant coach) Erin O’Driscoll was texting me play-by-play from the bench. So I guess I had the best live stream in the country.”

Last season, TWU finished second in the conference but were ousted from national tournament contention after being upset in the opening round of conference playoffs in Edmonton by upstart Fraser Valley.

“We were devastated two years ago because Nat was one of those difference makers in our lineup,” remembers Spartans’ head coach Graham Roxburgh, who on Thursday evening was named the conference’s Coach of the Year. “I guess the good news is that we were deep enough to to go on and win. But we’re a different team when Natalie plays to her capabilities. I always like to say that Nat has the capacity to cover every blade of grass on a field, and that is saying something because our field is so big.”

Boyd and the Spartans are red-hot heading into tonight’s contest having gone 12-0-1 since dropping its conference-opening match 1-0 at home to the arch-rival UBC Thunderbirds back on Sept. 10. No. 3 UBC (11-1-2) faces No. 9 Alberta (9-4-1) in today’s first semifinal match (2 p.m.) The two winners, who earn the conference’s only two national tournament berths, meet on Saturday (5 p.m.) to decide the Canada West championship title.

In Boyd’s mind, having to quickly recover from the season-opening loss to UBC really helped set the stage for the rest of their season, as they fashioned eight- and four-game win streaks the rest of the way, separated by a 1-1 draw with the Thunderbirds on Oct. 15.

“For us it was a big wake-up call,” said Boyd of the season-opening loss. “Facing some adversity in the beginning helped us up our training and change our mindset. I think it might have been the best thing for us.”

Certainly the conference’s coaches thought highly of the season turned in by Trinity Western. At Thursday’s Canada West awards banquet, five of the conference’s 11 first-team all-stars were Spartans, including Boyd who was joined by fellow midfielder Melissa Mobilio, defenders Jennifer Castillo and Colleen Webber, and keeper Kristen Funk.

UBC’s Janine Frazao was named Player of the Year, and Thunderbirds’ keeper Allyssa Williamson the Rookie of the Year. UBC’s Frazao and defender Kelly Cook were also named to the first team along with Victoria’s Jaclyn Sawicki.

Yet despite the conference accolades and its 13-game conference unbeaten streak, Roxburgh and Boyd both know the team has to perform in the moment on Friday.

“What we have done all year is focus on each weekend as it comes,” stressed Boyd.

Adds Roxburgh: “We have created a special atmosphere at our home games. We play on a big field, so it’s a chance to play at a tempo and in a space we’re used to. But we know that once the whistle goes, all that stuff gets thrown out the window. It’s two good teams and they’ll do battle.”

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