The Trinity Western men’s soccer team suffered a heart-breaking loss in the Canada West gold medal match Saturday at Thunderbird Stadium.
The Spartans coughed up a two-goal, second-half lead before losing 3-2 in overtime to the host UBC Thunderbirds.
The Spartans Vito Poletto and Leighton Johnson scored in the 45th and 59th minutes to seemingly put TWU on the path to their first Canada West title in a decade.
However, the tides changed when UBC’s Victory Shumbusho scored in the 69th minute.
With the T-Birds sensing a comeback was on the docket, Connor Guilherme tied the game in the 80th minute to force the Spartans to play an overtime session for the second night in a row.
Then, in the extra frame, Guilherme tallied the game-winning header in the 98th minute that captured the title of champion for the Thunderbirds and sent UBC to the national championship tournament.
The Spartans were forced to settle for a season-ending silver medal. However, the silver medal is the Spartans highest Canada West finish since also finishing second in 2008.
TWU pushed forward early on as UBC attempted to figure them out, but that changed quickly as the T-Birds then began to attack. As the game wore on, each team looked like they could take a lead at any moment.
Trinity Western got on the board first, using its last chance of the first half go ahead 1-0.
Johnson’s corner kick found its way to Poletto, who took no time in firing a shot that deflected off UBC players and past Chad Bush for the first goal of the game.
Entering the second half with the lead the Spartans looked to play a much more defensive game, but the offense came alive yet again.
The Spartans shored up their lead with a second goal in the 59th minute. This time Johnson was the one scoring as he placed the ball past Bush, off the inside of the post and into the net. Poletto got the assist as TWU took a 2-0 lead.
With their backs against the wall ,the Thunderbirds pushed forward. Inside the Spartans box Shumbusho let off a shot that found its way past TWU first-year goalkeeper Sebastian Colyn to cut the lead by one. Kyle Sohi was awarded the assist as the score sat 2-1 in the 69th minute.
In the 80th minute, Kerman Pannu came up the left side and placed a perfect cross into the box, finding the head of a wide open Guilherme. The center back smashed the ball in for the equalizer.
In the 98th minute the defender rose above the Spartans defense to get his head on a Sohi corner kick. Guiding the ball down and into the bottom left of the net.
Bush’s heroic save in the 103rd minute off a shot by Caleb Johnson may have very well secured the win for UBC as it was the Spartans’ last decent chance to equalize.
Coach of the Year, all-stars
While their season is over, the Spartans earned their fair share of accolades.
In just his second year as Spartans bench boss, Mike Shearon was named the Canada West Men’s Soccer Coach of the Year.
As well, fifth-year midfielder Elie Gindo was named a Canada West First Team All-Star, while fourth-year midfielder Leighton Johnson (was named a Second Team All-Star.
First-year goalie Sebastian Colyn was named to the Canada West All-Rookie Team.
Shearon led the Spartans to the Canada West Final Four for the second time in as many years, while guiding TWU to an 8-4-4 regular season record and a second place finish in the Pacific Division.
Along the way, the Spartans were the only team in Canada West to knock off both division leaders in UBC and Alberta. In just two years as TWU’s head coach, Shearon has led the Spartans to a combined record of 17-9-6.
Meanwhile, Gindo and Johnson were recognized as conference all-stars for the first time in their careers.