In the team’s inaugural season of CIS soccer, head coach Dante Zanatta couldn’t have written a much better script for his UBC Okanagan Heat.
After sweeping a pair of home games over the weekend, the Heat men are off to the best start by a first-year Canada West men’s soccer program since 2009.
Hard-fought wins over Fraser Valley and Trinity Western at UBCO’s Nonis Field have the Heat sitting at a most attractive 3-1 mark, good enough for second spot in the conference.
“You’re not going to do that every week,” Zanatta said of the two home-pitch wins. “But it’s great to have a couple wins—no one can take those points away from us.”
On Friday, in the team’s official Canada West home opener against the UFV Cascades, Jordan Leib put the Heat on the board with a marker just past the 20-minute mark.
After Fraser Valley evened the count at 78 minutes, keeper Christopher ‘Tate’ Cuthill made a couple of key saves to keep the Heat in the game.
That the set the stage for Enzo Paal’s dramatic winner in extra time.
“I wanted it really bad,” Paal said. “Dylan Abbott took a free kick, and then Ryan Jerry made a run down the line and crossed it near the post, and I hit it right footed in.”
Zanatta, who was relieved and happy to get the team’s first ever home field win, gave credit to the players.
“It’s the players,” he said. “The players have bought in. They all did well. The players play—the staff can only do so much work…credit goes to them.”
If that wasn’t enough of an example his team’s resolve, the Heat followed up on Saturday with a 2-1 verdict over Trinity Western.
After a Spartans’ goal midway through the opening half, Cole Kinzgett evened the count with his second of the season, with time winding down before the break.
Then just nine minutes into the second half, the Heat struck for the eventual game winner as Jordan Leib notched his third goal of the year, thanks to some deft playmaking by Enzo Paal and Dylan Abbot.
“Credit to the boys, they scored a really nice goal…and then hung on until the end,” Zanatta, referencing Leib’s finish at the net.
Now second in the conference at 3-1, the Heat have established a degree of confidence as they prepare this coming weekend for pair of Canada West powers—first-place UBC and the Victoria Vikes.
UBCO will host Victoria on Friday (6 p.m.) and the Thunderbirds Saturday (7 p.m.).
After battling to a pair of draws on their first ever weekend of Canada West play, the UBC Okanagan women were unable to earn a point in their first two home games at Nonis Field.
On Friday, the Fraser Valley Cascades got the better of the Heat with a 2-0 victory.
The biggest difference seemed to be experience and toughness as the Cascades outplayed the Heat by winning most of the 50-50 battles, especially in the second half. “We didn’t have control of the ball as much as we would like, so then we couldn’t get into a rhythm,” Heat coach Claire Paterson said. “We have to clean that up and make sure we’re maintaining possession once we’ve won the ball.”
On Saturday night, after a scoreless first half, the floodgates opened in the second as defending national champion Trinity Western rolled to a 5-1 victory.
The Spartans scored three times in a 17-minute span to take a 3-0 lead, before the Heat responded with its lone goal from Kelowna’s Courtney Hemmerling at 78 minutes.
“Was the score indicative of our play? No,” said Paterson following the contest. “We could have packed it in, said ‘whatever,’ but we continued to compete. And that was sheer hard work out of our players.”
Still, it was TWU’s night as they rounded out the scoring at 79 and 84 minutes.
All things considered the Heat coach was satisfied with her team’s effort.
“We’re a new team, not only in the league, but we have 50 per cent new players on our team,” Paterson added. “So it’s super encouraging to see us come out, compete, and compete well against the reigning national champions.”
The Heat women (0-2-2) will host Victoria on Friday (4 p.m.) and UBC on Saturday (5 p.m.) at Nonis Field on the UBCO campus.