Seger Nelson/ The Phoenix News
Seger Nelson/ The Phoenix News

Despite a promising late push, the Heat men’s team joins the women outside of a playoff spot to end this season.

Pretty much everything had to go wrong in the last weekend of regular season Canada West competition for the UBC Okanagan Heat men’s soccer team to finish outside a playoff spot, and it did. With their final matchup being the annual derby against the Thompson Rivers WolfPack, the Heat men were in a position to finish in the top four of Canada West’s Pacific division if they could come away with a pair of wins.

The UNBC Timberwolves had their bye week fall on the final weekend of the regular season, so the Heat had a team to leap frog with a single win. However, in their final two games against the WolfPack, the Heat men fell 1-0 on Thursday, October 19 and played to a 1-1 draw in Kamloops on Saturday, October 21.

“Never happy when the season comes to an end,” said Heat men’s coach Dante Zanatta after his side’s final match in Kamloops. “We had a couple of chances today, one in the first and one in the second but we couldn’t get it. Credit to them as we couldn’t put it in the back of the net.”

“I liked that we came to compete...They are a very young squad and continued to battle which is encouraging as we move forward.” Heat men’s coach Dante Zanatta

Those goal-scoring struggles were consistent with the Heat attack this season, as they netted 15 goals this season, the fewest in the Pacific Division. Their saving grace throughout the year was standout keeper and consistent Canada West Star of the Week, Mitch McCaw.

McCaw finished the year at or near the top of the three main keeper stats categories in Canada West. His save percentage of .877 was a conference best, his goals-against average (.064) was second-best, and his total of nine goals allowed had him tied for second-least of the year.

Nikhil Reddy, an offensive lynchpin for the Heat this season, was the lone goal scorer in the derby against TRU. He netted his first goal of the season late in the Saturday afternoon contest, putting one past WolfPack keeper Ryan Glanville late in the second half to tie it up. It was Reddy’s seventh point of the campaign, as he finished with six assists, tied for third-most in the conference.

“Congrats to TRU going forward,” said Zanatta in an end-of-season statement. “They pushed and never gave up especially since they knew we needed a win to continue our season.”

Zanatta added of his Heat side, “I liked that we came to compete...They are a very young squad and continued to battle which is encouraging as we move forward.”

On the women’s side, the season was a disappointing one, as the Heat finished at the bottom of the Pacific Division with a record of 2-9-3. Their hunt for another playoff appearance will continue next season as the young side develops, albeit without some of their veteran stalwarts.

Lauren Candelario, Emma Nelsen, Andrea Stinson, and Brittany Wheeler were all honoured in the annual Seniors Day ceremony on October 22 at Nonis Field.

Graduating players from the Heat men’s side, recognized in their ceremony on October 19 at Nonis Field, are Ryan Jerry, Darrell Plantz, and Mitch McCaw.