Bronze medal for WolfPack men in soccer nationals

Season of firsts for the WolfPack men, who had never appeared in provincial or national playoffs

TRU keeper Allan Connor celebrates after making a divine save during penalty kicks. (Juan Cabrejo/The Omega)

The WolfPack men have bronze medals hanging around their necks after defeating the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds at the U Sports soccer national championships at Hillside Stadium here in the River City.

Early on in Sunday’s match both teams defended very well. UBC dominated possession while TRU looked to play on the counter-attack.

TRU struggled early on in transition from defense to attack, but despite this, they took the lead 23 minutes into the game, when Ryan Glanville scored on a counter-attack.

Justin Donaldson had the assist to Glanville and he made no mistake burying the ball in the bottom corner of the goal.

UBC failed to create any significant chances in the remaining 22 minutes of the half, opting for long-range shots that didn’t cause the ‘Pack defense much trouble.

The second half started similar to the first, with both teams taking a cautious approach.

In the 63rd minute, UBC turned over the ball and Glanville capitalized, passing to Mitch Popadynetz who was free on the left side of the goal. Popadynetz chipped the ball over the onrushing keeper to make it 2-0 to TRU.

UBC made some changes to their line-up to try get back into the game, bringing on some of their regular starters.

The T-birds managed to get one back in the 68th minute, after Anatoli Leveille fouled a UBC forward inside TRU’s 18-yard box. UBC converted to make it 2-1.

At this point in the contest, TRU decided to keep doing what they were doing – sitting deep in the field and looking to play on the counter-attack.

The gameplan worked well until 86 minutes, when UBC got awarded a corner kick, where one of the UBC forwards was left unchecked and put the ball into the back of TRU’s net to tie it up.

The game was tied at 2-2 after 90 minutes of regulation and went straight to penalty kicks.

Cometh the hour, cometh the man – fifth-year keeper Allan Connor was the hero of the day after he saved two UBC penalties, one of which came after TRU had missed.

“I’m pretty confident with penalty kicks,” Connor told The Omega after the game. “I really don’t have an approach to them. I watch the players as they come to the ball and I make my decision.”

Having endured 90 minutes of play against a team that beat the ‘Pack a week earlier in the Canada West final four semifinal to knock them out of contention for gold, that confidence from Connor was a key part of leading the ‘Pack to victory.

“It means the world to us to come home with medals on a national stage,” he said.

This has been somewhat of a banner year for the WolfPack squad and coaches. As hosts, they were guaranteed entry into the nationals, but with a bronze medal win in the Canada West playoffs, they showed that they can nearly earn it on their own, and next year, that’s what they’ll have to do if they want to best this year’s bronze medal performances.

“We have a great group going forward, pretty much all are coming back except for six guys. We need to maintain this,” said head coach John Antulov.

Fifth-year Ryan Glanville had a goal and an assist in the game and was a key player in the WolfPack win. (Juan Cabrejo/The Omega)

Crowd in front, crowd behind. The WolfPack had a 12th man for Sunday’s game as the Hillside stands were packed. (Juan Cabrejo/The Omega)