By Nathan Hutton (The Cascade) – Email

Print Edition: November 5, 2014

(Image: Scott Stewart/TWU Athletics)
(Image: Scott Stewart/TWU Athletics)

On the frigid morning of November 1, the Cascades women’s soccer team prepared to play for the Canada West gold medal, surrounded by a layer of fog that would linger for much of the day. This game, against the Trinity Western Spartans, was personal.

The women’s team has only won the league once, back in 2010.

The night before, on Halloween, the Cascades were matched up against the Alberta Pandas — one of the strongest teams from the prairie division. That game saw the Cascades play to their absolute best and showcase why they belonged in the gold medal game and deserved a third chance to defeat their rivals, the Spartans. The Cascades battled back and forth with the Pandas, keeping up the high intensity from start to finish and hanging on the performance from goalkeeper Kayla Kim.

It wasn’t until the 71st minute of the game that the Cascades were able to break through. Carley Radomski found Shelby Beck, who shot the ball behind the Pandas’ Kelti Biggs, for the only goal of the game. The best part of the goal, though, wasn’t the beautiful connection between Beck and Radomski, but the sideline enthusiasm from Coach Rob Giesbrecht, who slid across the bench on his knees in celebration. It was a moment that signified the importance of the game for the Cascades and for Giesbrecht, who has had trouble returning to Nationals since his 2010 appearance with the Cascades.

The morning fog dispersed slowly throughout the day, leaving it bitterly cold as game time drew closer and closer. By 7 p.m., the fog had returned to Langley and a brilliant half-moon shone over the pitch as the bronze medal game finished. The Cascades took the field for a game that meant a lot more than a gold medal. It was Abbotsford vs. Langley, public vs. private school —  Cascades vs. Spartans.

Although the game took place at the Trinity campus, the pro-Cascade crowd held some familiar faces. Many of the men’s soccer players were at the game, including Mark Village and Ryan Liddiard. A number of UFV basketball players also showed up to cheer on their fellow varsity athletes.

However, for the women, it wasn’t about anything except  defeating the Spartans. They had been unable to climb the hump the Spartans had presented to the Cascades this season.

The game started and it was evident that the Cascades planned to attack the Spartans and try to physically overpower the Spartans’ defence. The Cascades fought hard and earned themselves three corner kicks in the first 20 minutes, but couldn’t convert on them.

Kayla Kim earned her designation of player of the game, making tough save after tough save. One of her most memorable came against a semi-breakaway from Natalie Arnett — a first-year forward for the Spartans. Kim stonewalled Arnett with great positioning, limiting Arnett’s options.

“[Her performance was] just fantastic. She is the best goalkeeper in Canada West,” Giesbrecht said of Kim after the game. “She kept us in it today, made lots of great saves, she was really composed back there and really did a good job for us.”

Kim went on to make a couple of key tips, just keeping the ball out of the net and keeping it to a no-score game. It wasn’t until the 24th minute, when the Spartans were awarded their third consecutive corner kick, that they were finally able to break ground and find a way to put the ball past Kim, making the score 1-0.

The rest of the half would see both teams get great chances, but just not converting. The rivalry didn’t seem to be just manufactured. The Cascades Kara Delwo and Karlee Pedersen were shown yellow cards after questionable calls from the referee. The first half ended with a great defensive stand from the Cascades, stopping the Spartans from getting their second of the game. The shots after the first half were 8-0 for the Spartans.

The second half saw the Cascades return to their early aggressiveness, playing up and strong, hoping to get the tying goal. The 61st minute saw their aggressiveness play against them, as the Spartans player of the game Jessica King beat the Cascades backline, and had an easy look at the net, making the score 2-0.

It was at this point that it seemed the game was over, but the Cascades never gave up. Giesbrecht said after the game, “I love the fact we didn’t quit, down 2-0 against a very good side on a tough night. We kept fighting and got a goal to make it 2-1.”

The Cascades registered a goal in the frantic final 15 minutes of the game, but it wasn’t enough. After 90 minutes the scoreboard would register the Cascades as the loser against the Spartans, for the third time this season.

Although the Cascades couldn’t beat Trinity, they still might get one more chance — when they head to Nationals next weekend as the Canada West’s second seed.

The Cascades haven’t made a Nationals appearance since 2010, and it means a lot to these girls.

“It’s fantastic, it is a great accomplishment, it’s one of the goals we set to get back to there. It’s hard getting there — we’ve knocked off UVic, we’ve knocked off the University of Alberta in this playoff push, so we can really take a lot of pride in that,” Giesbrecht said.

The Cascades head to Quebec City next weekend to play in the National tournament — it is likely that the Cascades will be the number five or six seed in the eight-team tournament, and possibly have one more chance to beat the Spartans this year.