By Alan Douglas/whitecapsfc.com
After two straight lopsided victories, Vancouver Whitecaps Prospects Women came up against much stronger opposition in Fraser Valley Action, and went down to a 3-0 home defeat on Thursday night.
Two former Whitecaps women's team players in Lyndsay Rohla and Melissa Mobilio scored two minutes apart early in the Pacific Coast Soccer League clash to give Fraser Valley a decisive advantage and hand the Prospects their first loss of the season at Simon Fraser University's Terry Fox Field.
In this same fixture last season, Whitecaps romped to a 6-1 win, but Fraser Valley have made great strides since then. The Action entered the game in first place in the PCSL Premier Women division at a perfect 5W-0L-0D, and days earlier, had knocked off defending champions Victoria Stars 2-0.
Whitecaps midfield general Natalie Boyd was unavailable for Thursday's game, so that meant Jaclyn Sawicki slotted into the middle of a 4-3-3 formation alongside Tessa Meyer and Nicole Setterlund. Forward Alicia Tesan also returned to the line-up, joining the team's top goalscorer Jenna Richardson and Janine Frazao up front. Vancouver's backline remained unchanged.
In the opening exchanges, the 'Caps made some good forays down the right, but could not find a decisive pass. The first clear look at goal fell to Frazao ten minutes in and 15 yards out, but an Action defender got a piece of the shot, which skipped harmlessly to the visitors' goalkeeper Veronika Rogina.
On 15 minutes, Fraser Valley were awarded a direct free kick 25 yards from goal, which Rohla blasted past the Prospects wall and goalkeeper Gurveen Clair on the open side for 1-0.
Two minutes later and it was 2-0 for the Action. Mobilio, who was on the left edge of the penalty area, fired a looping shot-cross to the back post, which went over Clair and dropped into the goal.
The two clubs battled hard for the remainder of the half, with the Whitecaps having the edge in play, but unable to break down the experienced and well-organized Action side. The Prospects were limited to long-range shots that rarely troubled Rogina in the Fraser Valley goal.
At the other end, Fraser Valley's only other good chance came late. Substitute Nikki Byrne on the left did well to get to a ball before it crossed the Whitecaps end line, and fired it across to the league's leading goalscorer Daniela Gerig. She stabbed her shot to the wrong side of the near post from close range.
It remained 2-0 Fraser Valley at the interval.
At halftime, Whitecaps head coach Jesse Symons changed things up by taking off Sawicki and pushing central defender Jennifer Castillo into central midfield. He also swapped goalkeepers, giving Ariel Anderson her first action of the season, and put on winger Katie Turney for Frazao.
Vancouver came out strong to start the second half, controlling play to a large extent, but still having trouble in the final third of the field, as Fraser Valley defended well, both as a team and in one-on-one situations.
Early chances fell to Turney, who deflected a cross wide of the far post on 37 minutes. A minute later, Turney volleyed over the crossbar from 10 yards out. A failure to hit the target would be a common problem for the home side on the night.
On 65 minutes, Setterlund did well to intercept a ball, chesting it past her marker neatly to break into the Action box. However, she blasted her shot over the crossbar. A minute later, some nice Vancouver approach play set up Richardson in the area, but her hard shot went just over the target.
At the other end, tall striker Gerig was causing all sorts of problems for the Prospects defence. She did well to break into the box on 75 minutes, but fired her shot straight at Anderson.
A minute later, the home side had a penalty appeal turned down. Setterlund looked to be shoved to the ground at the top left corner of the Fraser Valley box, but in a game that did not lack for the sound of a whistle, the match referee waved play on.
By this point, speedy winger Jenna Di Nunzio had come into the game for Turney, and started to make her presence felt. On 82 minutes, she broke down the left, beat her defender and sent a good ball in front to Setterlund. She took a touch to control, but then could not get a clean shot away under pressure. The ball broke to Melissa Bowen, but her shot was blocked by a defender. Minutes later, Di Nunzio made another good run, but more strong defending from the visitors meant her shot was blocked.
In the final minute, Fraser Valley sealed the win with a third goal. A free kick from Brittany Heinreich skipped off the top of a Whitecaps head and found Nikki Byrne in front, who nodded the chance home.
Defeat for the Prospects sees their PCSL record fall to 3W-1L-1D - thus leaving them in third place in the Premier Division standings. Their next league match is Saturday afternoon when they visit winless Surrey United at Cloverdale Athletic Park.
Whitecaps Prospects Women
1.Gurveen Clair (0.Ariel Anderson 45'); 15.Nikki Ambrose, 16.Carolyn Bell, 25.Jennifer Castillo, 13.Melissa Bowen; 19.Tessa Meyer, 6.Jaclyn Sawicki (8.Erin Uchachz 45'), 12.Nicole Setterlund; 5.Alicia Tesan (2.Jessica Hadden 62'), 22.Jenna Richardson, 9.Janine Frazao (18.Katie Turney 45'; 10.Jenna Di Nunzio 70')