There are no guarantees on the soccer field.
Despite being favoured and higher ranked in their quarterfinal against the Fraser Valley Cascades, the Bears soccer team exited Canada West playoffs earlier than they anticipated this year, courtesy of a 4-3 loss.
Both teams played a fairly conservative first half, with the Cascades holding a slight shot advantage, outshooting the Bears 4-2, while also scoring the lone goal. Kree Byrne finished off a nice through ball from Mason Thompson, to give the Cascades the advantage in the 30th minute.
The visitors would double their lead in the 66th minute, as Connor MacMillan finished off a two on one to give the Cascades another goal.
Macmillan’s goal kicked off a torrent of scoring from both teams. The Bears would respond just under three minutes later, as Daniel Baker-Rothschild poked home a loose ball in the box. The Cascades and Bears would exchange goals in just under a minute after that, to make the score 3-2 Cascades heading into the last 20 minutes of the game.
The two teams weren’t done there however, as Tolu Esan scored for the Bears in the 80th minute to tie the game at three apiece. It looked like the game was headed into extra time, but MacMillan scored his second goal of the game in the 83rd minute to give his team the lead — capping off a crazy 17 minute stretch which saw each team score three goals.
Head coach Len Vickery said that his team put in a good effort, despite the less than desirable result.
“(There was) no problem with the effort, the effort has been there all season,” Vickery said.
“It was just one of those games where we were desperately trying to get on track offensively early on, but didn’t quite get there.”
The Bears were able to find their game, scoring three goals in the final 21 minutes of the game, but unfortunately for them, the Cascades were able to answer, something that Vickery spoke about as well.
“Fraser Valley scored on some mistakes we made while we were trying to get on track,” Vickery said.
“As much as we played OK territorially, and possessed the ball quite well, we were struggling to find those scoring opportunities up front.”
The Bears certainly didn’t do themselves any favours by falling behind 2-0, and while they were able to fight back to tie, the first two goals for the Cascades were ultimately the deciding factor in the game.
“It was only when we got a goal or two behind that we found the extra impetus to create those goal scoring opportunities,” Vickery said.
“I think the rigors of a very intense fall season started to wear on people, and unfortunately, players were having to overcome some discomfort with injuries,” Vickery said, acknowledging that both fatigue and injury were also factors in the outcome on Saturday.
“We’re fighting a very competent opponent, but we’re also fighting to overcome the problems we were experiencing from a fitness point of view.”
Now, the Bears look toward the offseason, where several notable players will be moving on, including C.J. Gilroy, Logan Grenier, and Victor Karosan, who were all in their final years of eligibility.
Niko Saler and Mohamed Teliani will also be moving on, as they completed their degrees this past year. Both were significant contributors to the Bears this season, and will be difficult to replace going forward.
Despite these losses, Vickery was optimistic for the future, since the Bears are still a very young team.
“What bodes well for the future is that we have so many first and second year players,” Vickery said.
The Cascades will now face the UBC Thunderbirds in the Canada West semifinal on Friday, Nov. 6.