The Trinity Western Spartans will have a chance to defend their national championship from one season ago.
Caitlin Haines made sure of that with an extra time goal in the Canada West Final Four championships’ semifinals.
The goal gave the Spartans women’s soccer team a come-from-behind 2-1 victory over the first-place Victoria Vikes on Friday night.
The Vikes were hosting the Final Four championships at Victoria’s Centennial Stadium.
Trinity Western finished second in the Canada West, losing the championship final 2-1 in overtime to the Alberta Pandas.
Regardless, both teams advance to the Canadian Interuniversity Sport national championships, which are being hosted by the University of Toronto.
The eight-team tournament begins on Thursday (Nov. 7) at the University of Toronto. The Spartans face the Laurier Golden Hawks in the quarter-finals.
The Vikes were the last team to beat Trinity Western — prior to the Alberta loss — defeating the Spartans during an early-season regular season game back in September.
Following that setback, Trinity Western reeled off an 11-game unbeaten streak, which included nine victories.
And in the semifinal game, Victoria opened the scoring in the 62nd minute as Cassie Dennis crushed a shot past Spartans goalkeeper Rachel Bedek.
The score remained 1-0 until the 85th minute when Jennifer Castillo cracked a shot from outside the 18-yard box, leaving Vikes keeper Tanya Jones without a chance to make the save.
“I’m super proud of our team; we battled all the way and we believed that we would get a chance and Jenn’s goal was fantastic to get us to overtime,” said coach Graham Roxburgh.
“We defended with incredible heart tonight and our back four was fantastic.”
After a scoreless first overtime period, the Spartans struck for the winner in the 109th minute.
On the play, the Vikes keeper slipped — the rain and another earlier overtime game had created a slippery playing field — allowing Haines to bang home the winner.
“Our coach told me to just keep running to the net,” Haines said.
Victoria had a late chance to force penalty kicks when Haines was given a yellow card, but the free kick from the top of the 18-yard box sailed wide.
The win continues Trinity Western string of success against the Vikes in the post-season.
In the last six seasons, the Spartans are 4-5-1 in Canada West conference play against Victoria, but 5-1 in post-season play.
Against the Pandas the next night, it was a reversal as this time Alberta battled back from a 1-0 deficit to win 2-1 in overtime.
Krista Gommeringer had scored in the fifth minute, but 30 minutes later, Jessie Candlish tied things up at one.
And that was all the scoring until the first overtime half as Julia Ignacio notched what turned out to be the winning goal in the 95th minute.
The Spartans pressed for the tying goal but were stymied by Alberta keeper Kelti Biggs, who finished with four saves.
The Spartans were gunning for their third consecutive Canada West championship.
“We’re obviously disappointed that we couldn’t three-peat, but I’m really proud of the girls and how hard the fought tonight,” Roxburgh said.
“It wasn’t pretty soccer with the weather playing a factor but it was a good battle out there and just like last night, one good team had to lose a tough game.”