UBC, TWU repeats prove Canada West is best in CIS

Milad Mehrabi

Milad Mehrabi

The University of the Fraser Valley can claim moral victory. It is the only school in the last two seasons to knock off the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds.

The T-Birds won their second consecutive title on Sunday, with a 3-1 win over Laval on a chilly, snowy late autumn day in Fredericton. Last year, the T-Birds had an undefeated season en route to a national title; this season, there was one early season upset loss to UFV, and then the T-Birds didn’t look back.

Amaury Fauvergne gave the underdog Rouge et Or the 1-0 lead, and it stood up till halftime. But UBC got a 51th minute equalizer from Niall Cousens, then took the lead in the 62nd minute when Milad Mehrabi struck. In the 64th, Navid Mashinchi finished UBC’s shock-and-awe portion of the game with the T-Birds’ third goal.

It was UBC’s 13th title overall, No. 1 in CIS history in that regard. For coach Mike Mosher, that’s eight titles: Four as the T-Birds’ head coach, one as an assistant and three as a player.

“Winning doesn’t get old,” Mosher was quoted in a release from UBC. “Every time is better than the last and to go back-to-back is a pretty sweet feeling.”

You have to wonder if that one loss to UFV was a serious wake-up call for the team; that it couldn’t allow itself to be complacent.

UBC came into the CIS championships’ final eight as the heavy favourites. And, after wins over Montreal, York and Laval, they came through.

The truth is, Canada West is the best soccer conference in the country. And UBC comes better-equipped to handle nationals, which requires teams to play three games in four days. Because Canada West requires teams to take much longer road trips and provides stiffer competition than OUA’s East or West, RSEQ or AUS, the Canada West contenders are far readier to take on the world.

Since 2003, the CIS title has been won by Canada West teams eight times.

You can take this theory a little further and note that in most North American sports leagues divided by East and West, the Western divisions or conferences, as a rule, are better. Teams go on longer road trips. They bond. When it comes to crunch time, they are better prepared than Eastern teams to deal with exhausting regimes, pressure and travel. It’s the nature of geography: Eastern conferences tend to see cities that are packed closely together, where Western Conferences usually bridge three or even four time zones.

That Canada West-is-best theory is supported by the fact that Trinity Western also repeated on Sunday. At the women’s national final in Toronto, TWU got a second-half deciding goal from Calgary’s Krista Gommeringer — and defeated Montreal, 1-0. TWU earned its fifth ever title, an achievement made all the sweeter because, unlike UBC on the men’s side, the Spartans weren’t the odds-on favourite to repeat. Alberta had usurped TWU as the buzz program out of Canada West, and an early-season swoon pushed the defending champs down the rankings.

But, when it mattered, TWU like UBC, showed West is best. That is, Canada West is best.

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About Steven Sandor

I'm currently the colour commentator for FC Edmonton broadcasts on Sportsnet, NASL.com and TEAM 1260. I've covered the Toronto FC beat for four years, worked for the Edmonton Aviators of the USL for a season, covered the Edmonton Drillers of the NPSL and started covering Canadian World Cup qualifiers in 1996. I've covered the CONCACAF Champions League and the U-20 World Cup. I'm passionate about soccer in North America.