Vikes soccer program on the rise, returns to national final to earn fifth

- Ali Baggott

The consolation match between Manitoba Bisons and Victoria Vikes. Photo credit: Jeff and Tara Miller, U SPORTS.

A young but mighty Vikes women's soccer team flew under the radar all season long, quietly making their way up the Canada West standings after knocking down giants UBC in their home opener on route to a 9-1-4 regular season record. The Vikes closed out their regular season with incredible road victories over Prairie leaders Alberta, while holding the five-time national champions Trinity Western to a scoreless draw. Vikes keeper Puck Louwes earned a conference-high 10 shutouts as the Vikes claimed second in their division and hosted the first round of playoffs.

Home field advantage proved worthy as the Vikes dropped the Calgary Dinos 1-0 in the Canada West Quarter-Finals to book themselves a spot at conference Final 4 and ultimately be just one win away from a berth to the National Championship.

Prior to the Final 4 tournament, the Vikes dominated the Canada West awards list as Puck Louwes, Elise Butler and Emily Lieuwen were named First Team All-Stars, and Stephanie Badilla Gutierrez and Kiara Kilbey were named to the second team. Rookie defender Brea Christie was name to the Canada West All-Rookie team for her efforts.

In their final Canada West games the Vikes played through bitter cold weather in Langley, BC against the MacEwan Griffins, who upset the Alberta Pandas for their spot in the Final 4. Kilbey buried a curling shot from outside the box to lift the Vikes 1-0 and qualify them for nationals, hosted just a week later in Manitoba. The Vikes lost 2-1 to hosts Trinity Western in the conference final but the Canada West silver medallists already knew they had done what they needed to make their return to the national championship for the first time since hosting in 2013.

On the eve of their U SPORTS quarter-final match up against Cape Breton, the Vikes were further honoured as Louwes was named a U SPORTS First Team All-Canadian, ultimately as the top goalkeeper in the country, and Butler was named to the second team. A same-week decision to move the tournament location meant the Vikes had to play on an indoor and roofed turf facility for all games—a very unfamiliar environment for the Canada West teams who play mostly on grass and always outdoors.

The Vikes were adapting on the fly and their youth made them vulnerable in their opening match up against the Atlantic division powerhouses Cape Breton. Victoria Wulff scored the lone goal in the 2-1 loss that ultimately knocked the Vikes out of championship contention. Not to be disheartened, Vikes head coach Tracy David rallied the team to fight for the top of the consolation bracket and they did just that and in exciting fashion. Defending champions Laval were upset in their quarter-final leaving a women’s soccer giant in the way of the Vikes advancing to the consolation final.

"We were playing the defending national champions, Laval is a quality team and really it's an honour to play against them," said David. "You can figure out how good you really are when you play against the best."

Outstanding goalkeeping from Louwes kept the game scoreless after regular time, while four Vikes buried penalty kicks to complement two saves from Louwes to lift the Vikes 4-1 in penalty kicks over the Rouge et Or.

That's the fight, spirit and resiliency that this team has. They play for each other and believe in each other and those are tremendous qualities for our players to have.
Head coach Tracy David after the win

First year Christie score the game winner from the spot as the Vikes celebrated an important game not only in the tournament but also for the program. The Vikes went on to drop the hosts, Manitoba, 4-1 to capture an impressive fifth place at the national championship.

"Everybody wants to be in the gold medal game and were disappointed to not be there," commented David. However, the experience here in playing very good competition and having to perform under pressure at the National Championships will bode well for the future of our program."

The fifth-place showing from a young team that loses just three seniors to graduation, showed they are on the brink of a championship run. 


In this story

Keywords: athletics, sports, student life, Vikes

People: Tracy David, Puck Louwes, Elise Butler, Emily Lieuwen, Stephanie Badilla Gutierrez, Kiara Kilbey, Brea Christie

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