The Bears soccer squad will need to recover from their first loss of the season quickly as their games this weekend will decide which school will claim the top spot in the Canada West’s Prairie Division.
Of course, the worst weekend of the season is all relative for a team that hadn’t even allowed a goal to be scored on them through their first five games. The Bears faced their toughest competition yet last weekend with their B.C. road trip pitting Alberta against more experienced teams than they’ve been used to this season, UFV and the defending CIS champions, the University of Victoria.
The UVic Vikes handed the Bears their first loss of the year in a 1-0 game, while UFV gave the Bears their first tie when they scored off a penalty kick with less than a minute left in the game to tie the U of A at 1-1.
“We were up against two very determined squads,” Bears head coach Len Vickery said. “(Victoria) has a great number of players back from winning the CIS championships last year. With that experience and the added determination of facing a little adversity with losing three games and tying a game, they were desperate to get results.”
Alberta still maintains a record of 5-1-1, identical with their Prairie Division rivals, the University of Saskatchewan Huskies. The two teams now share the top spot in the division, adding even more importance to their games this weekend. However the six points of these games are doled out will affect playoff position as the season winds to a close over its final four weeks.
“(The players) understand that these are big games and based on the little bit of adversity this past weekend, we came out of it scathed, but it wasn’t a complete disaster,” Vickery said. “We know we now have to ramp it up a little more and there has to be improvements in small areas that will make a big difference.”
With the Bears being held to one goal over the weekend, in the middle of a season that has seen the team rack up five or seven goals a game, Vickery believes the team will have to improve its presence around the net.
However, a great deal of the credit for the Bears’ weaker offensive output and first loss has to go to the performance of their opponents. Both the UFV Cascades and UVic Vikes were able to stop the Bears offence for the majority of the game.
“Victoria have struggled with their results in recent games — they just stiffened up their defence; they’re a little more desparate, and when you’re desperate you get more blocks in. You prevent people from getting to key scoring areas effectively,” Vickery said.
“We saw that from Fraser Valley as well. They did everything in their power and set their targets to limit our goal scoring opportunities and unfortunately on that day they got their way.”
Vickery is confident in his team’s ability to respond to their first setback of the season. The Alberta coach is hopeful that his team will be able to return to their play that saw the team undefeated, ranked first in the country and shutout opponents for five straight games.
“It’s just a case of now we’re facing a little bit of adversity,” Vickery said. “Usually when strong athletes and competitors face those situations, they rebound with strong performances. That’s why we play the regular season.”
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