2012 was an exceptional year for university and college soccer in BC, highlighting the exciting crop of young talent that is currently playing in our province.
UBC Thunderbirds won their 12th CIS Mens Soccer Championship in some style, going unbeaten over 26 games. Simon Fraser University Clan made history and headlines by becoming the first Canadian school to make the NCAA playoffs, going all the way to the Division 2 ‘Final Four’ in their first eligible year for the postseason. Vancouver Island University Mariners made it all the way to the CCAA National Championship game before a heartbreaking loss on penalties.
There was some enjoyable football played and some exciting talent to keep an eye on.
For fans of the local college scene, one debate continued to rage. Who would win in a battle between Vancouver’s big two, SFU and UBC?
Some kind of answer will be forthcoming this Saturday when the two teams meet in an eagerly anticipated preseason friendly at SFU’s Terry Fox Field.
Not that you could ever class a game between the two province powerhouses as friendly.
A mid or end of season game last year would have been the peak time for the two teams to meet and a wonderful spectacle between two high flying sides at the top of their game.
Although more ideal, midseason meetings can prove a little complex from an SFU point of view, as losing to a Canadian side could have a brutal impact on their place in the NCAA rankings.
This game may not see two teams at their peak but they won’t be too far off it, strong with a little rustiness expected from still being in preseason form and trying to find their feet with all the changes and turnover in their squads. That won’t stop them from making the game very fiercely contested and you can be certain that there’s going to be some great football on display.
Bragging rights and personal pride are on the line in the battle, with both schools having points to prove.
SFU, who had been competing in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), decided to join NCAA Division 2 instead of the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) from 2010.
That decision was met with ire from some in Canada who accused the Clan of turning their backs on the Canadian collegiate system and has led to regular heated debates, especially on our previous articles, about what is the best development route for Canadian players – CIS or NCAA.
It also sadly meant an end to the regular rivalry matches between SFU and their UBC counterparts and the teams haven’t played each other for nearly three years.
The last meeting between the two sides was on Sunday September 12th 2010 up at UBC in the Challenge Cup. The Clan won 2-0 thanks to goals from Whitecaps Residency graduate Derrick Bassi and Lucas Ferritto, taking them to an overall leading record of 13-10-4 in the Cup.
UBC’s last win came the year before when goals from Miguel Michelena and William Hyde gave them a 2-0 win.
Interestingly, both Ferritto and Hyde are still with their schools and will play in this game all this time later.
Despite the passing of the years, the rivalry is no less intense. In fact, if anything, it’s ramped up with the two schools playing in the different systems.
Both coaches know they’re in for a challenge.
“We haven’t played these guys in a couple of years and everybody’s looking forward to it.” UBC head coach Mike Mosher told AFTN. “I know it’ll be a good test. They’ve got a good team, we’ve got a good team.”
“It’s a rivalry game and for us it’ll be a good way to conclude the preseason with a good stiff test prior to starting our Canada West play a week later.”
“I’m sure they’re the same. It’ll show a bit of a measuring stick to where you’re at. It’ll be a good one. I’m sure it will be.”
Sentiments echoed by Mosher’s counterpart at SFU, Alan Koch.
“Any derby is always a big game. We have a great history with UBC and I am sure our lads will look forward to this match.
It is a great competitive way for us to finish off our preseason. There are several quality players on both sides and it should be a treat for our local community to see some quality football on display.”
The hope is that there can be a very strong turnout up on the mountain. Well into four figures would be deserving and those that do make it out are going to see both sides going for it.
“It’s a game that both teams are going to want to win. It’s going to be a very competitive game I’m sure” added Mosher.
But whilst the fans and pundits like ourselves can get a bit excited about the occasion, coach Mosher knows that you can’t read too much into the end result, whatever that turns out to be.
“Is it something that defines us this season or our program? Absolutely not.
“We play in different leagues and we’re both successful in our leagues. I’ve said this time and time again. We both have good teams. We both have good programs. We just play in different leagues.”
With all those previously mentioned arguments about those different leagues and paths chosen, there is undoubtedly also a little edge under the surface.
“I think last year there were some comments made from their side that sort of questioned the quality of CIS.” continued Mosher. “Certainly myself and CIS colleagues didn’t necessarily appreciate those comments.”
“We feel that in Canada West, we’ve got a good Conference and I’m not that familiar with the NCAA Division II and certainly in the Conference in which SFU plays I know a few of the teams, because we’ve played them, but the rest of them I don’t really know.
“But they’ve had success since they’ve gone into that league and we’ve had our success in our league and I would argue that the top teams in CIS would be right there with the top teams in Division 2.
“Like I say, it’s two good teams that just happen to play in different leagues.”
Ultimately a preseason game settles nothing and people will still argue vehemently for both sides. And that in itself is good because it shows that people care about the future of the game in this country.
We’re spoiled in Vancouver and the lower mainland in having two of the best college soccer programs in the country here to watch, enjoy and develop talent.
Some of the best football you’ll see played in Vancouver the rest of the year will be played by both of these teams.
But don’t just take our word on that. Get out and see it for yourself first hand.
7pm Saturday. Terry Fox Field.
The #BattleOfBC. It’s going to be a cracker. Be there.
[This article kicks off our new college season coverage here on AFTN. We’ll have season previews for both SFU and UBC over the next two days, along with a report and reaction from the game on Saturday. We also plan to have regular updates on both schools, the odd look at the rest of CanWest and regular features on our ‘Caps In College’.]