Dante Zanatta’s UBC Okanagan Heat didn’t need a year of initiation to make their presence felt in CIS men’s soccer.
With a victory and a draw against the Thompson Rivers University Wolfpack over the weekend, the Heat (5-5-2) secured a playoff berth in their inaugural season of Canada West play.
This Friday, the Heat will battle the UBC Thunderbirds in a first-round post-season matchup, with the winner moving on and the loser being eliminated.
UBCO’s 1-0 win over the Wolfpack on Saturday officially sent the Heat to the playoffs.
Enzo Paal’s goal in extra time at Hillside Stadium in Kamloops was the difference.
On Sunday, back in Kelowna, the Heat and Wolfpack played to a 1-1 draw. Dylan Abbott notched UBCO’s lone marker at 49 minutes on a penalty kick.
Abbott, meanwhile, was one of four seniors to play the last home games of their Heat soccer careers on Sunday.
Abbott is joined by outgoing veterans Joe Gill, Austin Jones and Nick Kmet.
“All the guys came in as young players with some talent,” coach Dane Zanatta said. “I think they’re the cornerstone(that has) built the program.
“They’ll be hard to replace, but each of them is a quality individual and they will be missed.”
The UBC Okanagan women capped their first season of Canada West competition with a win and a draw against the TRU Wolfpack.
A 1-0 verdict Saturday in Kamloops was the first ever CIS win for Claire Paterson’s Heat.
Michelle Smith scored the lone goal at 33 minutes, while fifth-year keeps Christine Tallon posted her second clean sheet of the season, as the Heat earned its historic first win against a longtime rival.
“A weight was lifted when that final whistle blew…for every veteran who’s dreams have been crushed by TRU, ” Tallon said after the match. “It was exciting. It was joyous. It was something we deserved. And to have it happen on a field I have spent thousands of hours training on to become the player I am today was the icing on the cake for me. It just felt right.”
On Sunday in Kelowna, the Heat capped the season with a 0-0 draw against the Wolfpack to finish at 1-7-3.
The game was also the swan song for five seniors on the Heat: Tallon, Hayley Carlson, Paige Howes, Kirtsen Dodds, Marissa Klees.
“It’s really hard to say goodbye,” said Claire Paterson, the Heat’s head coach.
“It’s hard because you develop a relationship with each of them, and they’re amazing people to get to work with.”