Canada West Champions!

By Julie Bogle and Mike Selnes

Can you say Canada West Champions? Our lady Dinos can, and are the first University of Calgary varsity soccer team to hold the title since the men did in 1980. They showed the grit and determination we have come to expect, pulling off two spectacular shoot-out victories Nov. 5-6. They came onto the pitch as under-dogs and walked off champions.

Saturday, the Dinos took to the frozen varsity pitch against Canada West’s top-ranked University of British Columbia Thunderbirds. It was clear the Dinos were playing to win. They dominated play for the majority of the game.

Many Dinos had recently received awards and played like the winners they are, taking it to the next level.

Renae Hunter proved she deserved her CW First-Team All-Star status. She displayed both defensive prowess and ball-control skills for the entire game, rarely allowing UBC a chance. She claimed last week’s game against UBC was useful in preparation for this match. And it showed in the Dinos’ on-field performance. First-year Katie Blundell wowed the crowd with her speed and heart, slashing up and down the left side, challenging every ball and putting pressure on the net.

Much of the game was played out at midfield, with few chances for either team. Hunter teased the crowd with the best chance of the first half when she dangled through the UBC midfield and unleashed a rocket from 25 yards out that flew mere inches over the crossbar in the 40th minute. Erin Ramsay kicked a rocket of her own in the second half, when she took a free kick just outside the box. She bent it like Beckham around the right side of the wall, but, unfortunately, the shot flew just wide.

The game went into extra time and UBC finally got their act together. The Dinos’ CW First-Team All-Star goalie Taryn Swiatek foiled a brilliant volley by UBC midfielder Ariane Williams in the 95th minute to preserve the tie and send the game into a shoot-out.

Tension was high on the Calgary sideline as UBC jumped out to an early lead in the shoot-out. Luckily the Dinos turned it around with goals from Ramsay, Stephanie Hoogveld and Erin Harris forcing the game into sudden-death shots. The T-Birds missed their sixth shot while Hunter calmly drove hers into the back of the net, springing the Dinos into the CW final and earning a nationals berth.

According to Swiatek, the Dinos weren’t content just making nationals, and knew they wanted to be CW champions. They returned to the pitch Sunday as determined and ready as ever against the University of Victoria Vikes. Swiatek was named Canadian Interuniversity Sport Female Athlete of the Week for once again stepping up with several huge saves over the course of the game. The leadership and experience she gained from 18 caps with the Canadian National Team was demonstrated all season; this weekend was no different.

The game was as balanced as a weigh scale. Though both sides had their fair share of chances, neither team could tip the scale in their favour. Everyone thought the Dinos might take an early lead when Kara Sturk hit the post from outside the box 12 minutes into the game. UVic had their own chance 20 minutes in, but Swiatek made the save and the game remained tied. The action in the second half swung back and forth like a hypnotist’s pendulum, but neither squad fell under their opponent’s spell and the action once again proceeded to overtime.

The Dinos almost pulled off the victory in the dying seconds of the second overtime half when Katie almost converted on a ball put into the box by her sister Shirley Blundell.

For the second straight day each team’s shooters and goalies would line up to decide their fate in a shoot-out. A sense of deja vu came over the crowd as the teams were tied after five shots. On the sixth shot Swiatek stared down the Vikes shooter, diving right to make a huge save and setting the stage for Jessica Horning, a CW Second-Team All-Star. As the suspense rose, Horning struck the ball past the Vikes keeper, closing the final CW conference act in 2005 with the Dinos triumphant!

The first battle for the Dinos at the CIS Women’s Soccer Championship held in Edmonton Nov. 10-13 will be against the St. Francis Xavier University X-Women on Thursday. The X-Women ranked fifth in the country in a national coach’s poll Nov. 3. They hope to build on their momentum gained over the weekend and bring home a CIS championship.