The Pandas soccer team opened their season on a slightly disappointing note this past Friday, earning a drawn against the underdogs from Thompson Rivers University.
The draw came as a surprise, but it could have been much worse, as Alberta saw their 1-0 lead turn into a 2-1 deficit within a five-minute span near the end of the game. The tying goal was conceded in the 75th minute, and then Thompson Rivers went ahead in 78th on a nifty lob shot from forward Jaydene Radu, who accounted for all of Thompson Rivers’ offence in the game, and also leads Canada West with four goals early in the season.
Luckily for the Pandas, Jamie Pasemko came to the rescue in the 85th minute, converting off a corner kick to tie the game back up. Despite some solid pressure late, the game ended in a 2-2 draw.
Head coach Liz Jepsen noted that there was a certain amount of disappointment associated with the draw. “We didn’t manage our game very well,” Jepsen said. “Having those two goals scored on us wasn’t ideal.”
Despite that, Jepsen said she was impressed that the Pandas were able to steel themselves and come up with the late tying goal.
“(Our team) really had to fight, really had to grind it out to put the ball in the net,” she said. “Mistakes are going to happen, breakdowns are going to happen, but it’s what you do in response that shows your true character.”
Thankfully for the Pandas, there was a quick turnaround in the Sunday game against the UBC Okanagan Heat, which they were able to win 2-1.
Like the first game, the Pandas jumped out to a lead, the goal coming courtesy of second year forward Karissa McNutt. Also like the first game however, the opponents were able to tie the game, as the Heat equalized in first half injury time.
Unlike the game against Thompson Rivers, the Pandas were able to claw ahead and stay there, benefitting from a 59th minute goal from 2013 Canada West MVP Julia Ignacio.
Jepsen spoke about the Pandas notably better execution against the Heat.
“The girls showed that that could really lock it down at the end of the game, which is what we failed to do on the Friday prior,” Jepsen said. “The last 20 minutes of the game, the girls really knew how gritty you have to be to have a win when it’s a one goal difference against good players.”
Jepsen also spoke about how despite the less than ideal results, this weekend was a good learning experience for the Pandas. “You have to play 90 minutes, and you can’t have mental breakdowns,” Jepsen said. “You’ve got to know that if you make a mistake in Canada West, you will pay.”
The Pandas will hit the road for their first games away from Foote Field this year, playing the UBC Thunderbirds on Sept. 18, and the Victoria Vikes Sept. 19, two teams that they did not play in the regular season last year. Victoria will be looking for their first win of the young season, as their record currently sits at 0-2-1, the most recent loss coming against defending champs Trinity Western.
UBC, meanwhile, is coming off their first loss of the season against the Fraser Valley Cascades.
The Golden Bears soccer team also opened up their season this past weekend, playing two road games against the Lethbridge Pronghorns and the Saskatchewan Huskies. Unlike the Pandas, the Bears had a loss free weekend, crushing the Pronghorns 6-1 on Friday on the back of a hat trick from fifth year Mohamed Teliani, and scraping out a 3-2 win against the Huskies on Sunday.
The game against the Huskies was a back and forth affair, with the Bears leading 2-0 at one point, only to have Saskatchewan rally back and tie the game 2-2. The big goal came from Niko Jankovic in the 78th minute, and it put the Bears up for good. The men now have an off weekend, and return to the pitch for their home opener against the Mount Royal Cougars on Sept. 26, and will follow that up with a against the Calgary Dinos on Sept. 27. Mount Royal is currently undefeated, as they swept their two games against the Winipeg Wesmen this past weekend, while Calgary has yet to play a game this season, and will open their season this upcoming weekend against the Lethbridge Pronghorns.