The UNBC Timberwolves came close on a number of opportunities, but had to settled for a 1-0 defeat at the hands of the UBC Okanagan Heat on Saturday in Kelowna.
The Timberwolves came out the more intentional side, testing Heat goalkeeper Molly Race a number of times in the early going, but the keeper did well to turn away shots from Kiana Swift and Camryn Cline.
In the 25th minute, the Heat got on the board off a broken play in the Timberwolves’ third. Abigail Taneda found herself in behind the UNBC backline, and after getting keeper Brityn Hinsche to commit, she slid it to Amanda White for the tap-in goal to open the scoring.
Two minutes later, the Timberwolves nearly equaled the score when veteran Paige Payne streaked up the middle of the pitch but just missed the bottom right corner with a good strike from the top of the box. Payne had another good look in the 30th minute, firing it just wide of the left post behind Race, keeping it a 1-0 contest.
At the half, the Heat held a slight 6-4 advantage in shots.
“UBCO did a really good job of staying really calm and composed on the ball today,” said Payne. “They were able to pass around the in the midfield, and that led to them attacking us with pace.”
Coach Neil Sedgwick went to his bench to start the second half, inserting Morgan Holyk, Tabea Ziemke, Sidney Elliott, Lexy Green, and Jaslin Mandaher into the game, looking to get his roster minutes and valuable playing time, while battling the Kelowna climate.
Kiana Swift and Avery Nystedt were particularly effective on the defensive side of the ball, as the TWolves looked to hold the fort and find an equalizer in the second half.
In the 60th minute, UBCO nearly doubled their advantage when White had a ball settle at her feet after a sliding effort by Nystedt, but the speedy forward shot it just wide of the far post from 10 yards out.
Time was the Timberwolves’ enemy, as the Heat were content to try to hold off any UNBC attack, creating turnovers and sending UNBC back to their own third.
Off a corner, UNBC created chaos in the box, leading to a bouncing ball and close calls from Claire Turner and Kiana Swift, but eventually the ball scattered out of harm’s way and away from the Heat box.
Eventually, the TWolves ran out of time, and the Heat earned a hard-fought 1-0 victory to open the Canada West campaign. The final statistics showed a 12-7 advantage in shots in favour of UBC Okanagan.
“I think we did a really good job pushing through the heat and those first game jitters,” said Payne, postgame. “We were shaky at the beginning, but I think we grew a bit more confidence with each minute. We were able to put a lot pressure in the attacking third towards the end of the game.”
Now, the Timberwolves head to Kamloops for a matchup with the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack on Sunday afternoon.
“Tomorrow, it’s important to go in with confidence and immediately put pressure on TRU,” said Payne, of the back-to-back situation. “They have always been a physical team, so we need to match that and go above and beyond their physicality to get the outcome we are looking for.”