Posted on: November 12, 2017
In an “all Canada West” battle, the WolfPack met up with league champion University of British Columbia Thunderbirds. TRU gave the nearly 1000 people in attendance something to smile about as they beat the T-Birds 3-2 in penalty kicks.
See highlights by clicking here
The teams played a conservative game to start the match. The WolfPack opened the scoring in the 23 rd minute. Three time Canada West all-star Ryan Glanville got a head man pass from Justin Donaldson and cut towards the centre of the field. The 33 year old USPORT Academic All-Canadian went from right to left foot and chipped it under the diving UBC keeper Chad Bush. The shot went low left side. Glanville—who was playing his final university match’s second goal of the USPORTS Nationals.
TRU carried a 1-0 lead into the half.
The Thunderbirds infused some new faces in the second half which gave them some life and they pressured the WolfPack back end. TRU didn’t bend though, in the 60th minute, Glanville had another glorious chance as he evaded a defender and went in close on Bush but the ball bounced the opposite direction.
In the 63 rd minute, UBC turned over the ball and Glanville turned to his left and spotted Canada West player of the year Mitchell Popadynetz. He got a piece of the ball bouncing past Bush into the net . TRU led 2-0.
The Thunderbirds have come back a number of times during the season. They cut the margin to one in the 68 th minute when Zach Verhoven was hauled down by WolfPack rookie Anatoli Leveille in the box. A penalty kick was awarded and Kyle Sohi beat TRU keeper Alan Connor low left site to cut the WolfPack lead to 2-1.
In the 86th minute, UBC got a corner kick. Ryan Arthur converted it to tie it up at two.
That set the stage for a dramatic penalty kick contest to decide the medal.
TRU’s Popadynetz, Thomas Lantmeeters and James Fraser scored while keeper Connors stopped two UBC shooters and had the other one fire wide.
“This is one of the greatest days of my life,” Glanville said afterwards. “One of these things about how far we have come. The pressure on the entire team to make everyone proud in Kamloops and the University. It was such a nice relief to beat UBC on our home soil—a team which we have always had trouble with. Then to win it in PK’s, you couldn’t have asked for more. It was a fantastic way to end a career.”
It was Connor’s last career match as well. “This is amazing. What a way to go out. To come back and play in the championship at home and win a medal. I was with the team twice before in the college days. The best we could do was fourth in Halifax and fifth at home. The fans have been fantastic. We beat three of the top five teams in the nation in the last six days. Its been fantastic. It’s been so special to win it here. My wife is here. My son is here and to have them witness it is very special.”
“It’s a lot of pressure,”Connor said about penalty kicks. “ I have a lot of confidence going into penalties. We have been them a lot of times before. The guys give me that confidence. I know we can score. Our shooters are great as you saw. That takes the pressure off me. All I have to do is make a save.”
When the WolfPack posed for their team photo, a few held an armband with the name “Sebby” on it. That armband in honor of former teammate and assistant coach Sebastian Gardner who passed away from cancer last year. Holding the armband high was another player concluding his university career: Brandon Mendez. Mendez reflected on that bond . “When I came back, I wanted to dedicate my entire season to Seb. Winning this game was something he would have liked to be a part of it. “ He is a fighter. He would have loved every minute of it. That was a really big thing. A lot of new kids who didn’t know him embodied his character. It was amazing to see.”
WolfPack head coach John Antulov post match interview by clicking here
This is Thompson Rivers second ever CIS/USPORTS bronze medal. The WolfPack men’s volleyball team captured bronze at Nationals in Laval, Quebec in 2008.
In the post tournament awards: Glanville, Popadynetz and Colton Walker were named to hte all-star team. The WolfPack won the fair play award.
PLAYERS OF THE MATCH: