A strong performance was needed from the Golden Bears soccer squad this weekend to break away from the U of S, with the teams’ results mirroring one another so far far this season.
Going into the weekend, both teams were tied for first place in the Prairie Division of the Canada West conference with records of 5-1-1. Their schedules throughout the season had been nearly identical, but the Bears were able to break away from the Huskies in their game on Saturday when they won a close 2-1 game.
A 1-1 draw the following day didn’t change the fact that the U of A now holds top spot in their division, three points ahead of the Huskies.
“Obviously, along with ourselves, (Saskatchewan) is one of the stronger teams on our side of the conference,” Golden Bears soccer head coach Len Vickery said following the 1-1 draw on Sunday.
“They played particularly well, hustled and worked with one another to make it difficult for us. Fortunately, we put ourselves in a good position by winning the game yesterday. We got our noses in front today and unfortunately they got a goal to tie it for them, to take away two points from us, but all credit to Saskatchewan.”
The stakes were high as a first-place finish in the Prairie Division means home field advantage in the playoffs.
The Bears opened scoring on Saturday in the second half when Bears captain Scott Gilory capitalized on a penalty kick one minute and 24 seconds after midfielder Zenon Markevych scored. Huskies striker Brett Levis scored to cut the lead in half, but the Bears held on for a critical win in their season.
Their rematch the following day was a more heated affair with a number of fouls called and a yellow card given in the first half to one of the Bears’ top players, Marcus Johnstone.
“I had to calm them down because (Johnstone) got his yellow card for what we didn’t feel was an offence,” Vickery said about his team. “They were calling for a yellow card in a situation where we felt there wasn’t even a foul. As bad as tying the game today would have been, losing a player at that point in time would have been an even bigger disaster.”
The Bears would score their lone goal in the game off a Niko Saler penalty kick that was also Saler’s first goal as a Bear. But the Huskies responded, with Levis scoring his second goal of the weekend to tie the game at one.
However, these three points could be just enough of a lead for the Prairie Division leaders given their similar results against Saskatchewan so far and the fact that they’ll face the exact same competition for the rest of the season.
“We’re three points ahead, so we’ve got a little separation,” Vickery said. “We’re in a good position seeing as how our schedule mirrors Saskatchewan’s. Now it’s going to reward a team that can beat UBC or Trinity Western or go into Calgary and Lethbridge and get results.”
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