By Alan Douglas/whitecapsfc.com
Vancouver Whitecaps Prospects Women played to a hard-fought 2-2 away draw versus Fraser Valley Action in Langley, BC, on Wednesday night.
The result meant that Jesse Symons' side were the first team this season to take points away from the Pacific Coast Soccer League leaders.
In a fiercely competitive match filled with emotion, the Whitecaps scored both first and last, as Jenna Richardson opened scoring, while Alicia Tesan netted a late equalizer. Former Whitecaps first-team players Melissa Mobilio and Lindsay Rohla did the damage for the home side.
Symons made two changes to the starting eleven which defeated NSGSC Eagles on Canada Day last week. Defender Carolyn Bell, back from holiday, returned to central defence alongside Jennifer Castillo. At centre forward, Jaclyn Sawicki got the nod, with Richardson and Jenna Di Nunzio playing on the flanks in a 4-3-3 formation.
Fraser Valley had the upper hand early on, but there were no good chances to speak of until 11 minutes in, when it was the Whitecaps who found the net. Natalie Boyd sent a ball to Di Nunzio on the right, and while her sharp-angle shot was stopped, the rebound sat in front of goal. Speedy Richardson was first to the ball by a split second, and forced it home, past a defender and Action goalkeeper Veronika Regina. The goal was Richardson's 19th of the season, and extended her scoring streak to eight games.
Fraser Valley almost replied three minutes later, as goalkeeper Gurveen Clair could not hold a driven cross from the left, but Daniela Gerig on the turn hooked the rebound wide of the empty net.
The Prospects then started to carry the play, and on 24 minutes, a hard shot from Richardson needed a good pair of hands from Regina, who was in for an unusually busy night.
On 35 minutes, however, Fraser Valley were awarded a penalty kick after the referee spotted a push in the back following a cross into the box. Mobilio stepped to the spot, and made it 1-1.
The best chances in the remainder of the half fell to the 'Caps. On 39 minutes, Richardson on the overlap on the right hit the side-netting with a hard shot. On 42 minutes, Di Nunzio broke in on the left from a good ball from Richardson, but after pulling clear of her marker, was stopped in close by Regina at the edge of the six-yard box. Finally on 44 minutes, Tessa Meyer headed just over the Action crossbar from in close off a corner kick.
It was 1-1 at halftime.
The Whitecaps made four chances at the break, including taking off PCSL scoring leader Richardson, who had taken a painful kick to the ankle midway through the half.
Both teams had chances after the break. On 51 minutes, a dangerous cross by Fraser Valley from the right found Gerig in close, but she did not connect well with her header and sent the ball wide. At the other end on 56 minutes, Tesan did well to find Katie Turney on the left, but her hard 15-yard shot went just wide of the near post.
The home side took the lead on 63 minutes. The referee awarded the Action a free kick right at the edge of the area, and Rohla took it quickly, while the Whitecaps were still setting up the wall. She curled it perfectly inside the top right corner, giving Clair no chance.
The Prospects pushed forward in search of an equalizer. On 70 minutes, there was a wild sequence off a free kick. Boyd neatly flipped the ball over the wall to Meyer, but her shot on the bouncing ball was stopped. The rebound went to Nicole Setterlund, but her shot was blocked by a defender on the goalline. It then fell for Nikki Ambrose 15 yards out on the left, and her hard rising blast to the top left corner produced a spectacular leaping save from Regina to push it over the crossbar.
Fullback Ambrose tested Regina again three minutes later with another hard shot, which the Action number one did well to hold.
The Whitecaps were now pushing everyone forward, and effectively playing with just two at the back. Ambrose joined the attack, while winger Jenna Di Nunzio entered the game for defender Mikyla Kay.
The pressure finally paid off on 87 minutes. A long clearance by Clair up the middle bounced through for Tesan, who got behind the defence and stroked it past the onrushing Regina. It was Tesan's second goal of the season.
Fraser Valley are unaccustomed to not winning, and immediately hit back. Gerig broke through on the left, and her shot to the far post was stabbed away by a defender on the goalline. The ball fell for Alexi Foster and her hard shot was well saved by Clair.
The Prospects then almost took the points in time added on. A long ball found Tesan, who did well to bring it down in stride, then tried to float a quick shot over Regina from 20 yards, but her shot landed on the roof of the net.
The match ended 2-2.
The draw moves the Whitecaps record to 10W-1L-3D, as they remain in second place in the PCSL Premier Division standings, behind 11W-0L-1D Fraser Valley, who are now almost certain to take top spot at the conclusion of the regular season.
The Whitecaps close out their regular season this weekend with a pair of home matches at Simon Fraser University. On Saturday afternoon, they host NSGSC Eagles, while on Sunday afternoon, defending champions Victoria Stars pay a visit to Burnaby Mountain. Both games kick off at 2:30 p.m. PDT.
Whitecaps Prospects Women
1.Gurveen Clair; 7.Melissa Bowen (20.Mikyla Kay 45', 10.Jenna Di Nunzio 83'), 16.Carolyn Bell, 25.Jennifer Castillo (8.Erin Uchacz 74'), 15.Nikki Ambrose; 12.Nicole Setterlund, 4.Natalie Boyd, 19.Tessa Meyer (11.Kendra Williams 45', 19.Tessa Meyer 67'); 22.Jenna Richardson (18.Katie Turney 45'), 6.Jaclyn Sawicki (5.Alicia Tesan 28'), 10.Jenna Di Nunzio (6.Jaclyn Sawicki 45')