It proved to be a perfect storybook season run for Burnaby sisters Anisha and Janika Sangha.
In their second season together as members of the University of B.C. Thunderbirds soccer team, the pair were big contributors to the championship run that ended with a 1-0 triumph over the University of Calgary Dinos Sunday in Victoria.
The siblings soaked in the celebratory moment with their teammates after the final whistle, before a T-bird-friendly crowd.
Danielle Steer did her best Paul Henderson imitation, scoring the game-winning goal for a second straight game, to earn the Canada West champions a national banner.
"I saw the ball coming in deep and knew from what we worked on in practice to go to the penalty spot," said Steer of Sunday’s winner, which came in the 79th minute. "I saw the ball coming and knew I needed to get something on it. I put everything in my body to get a touch on it. I got a bit of my head on it and when I saw it roll in, it was the best feeling I've ever had."
Natasha Klasios’ cross created an airborne logjam, as players battled to get to the ball. Steer’s leap was such that it tipped the ball, bumping a Calgary defender and inadvertently discombobulating goalkeeper Lauren Houghton. The ball bounded into the net, setting the stage for the T-birds victory celebration.
But first, they had to quash the Dinos’ offence over the final 10 minutes.
It was also a rematch of the Canada West final, where Calgary pulled out a 1-0 win. It made the final result fitting retribution.
"From last time we played (in the Canada West final), we knew it was going to be a physical match. They beat us so we had a chip on our shoulder," said Steer, who was named championship MVP. "We knew it was going to be a close game but we felt like we had more in our legs late in the game."
The Sangha sisters followed the same path to UBC – having played locally, then through Mountain United, and after graduating from Stratford Hall private school.
Janika was named UBC’s player of the game in their 1-0 quarterfinal victory over the Montreal Carabins on Thursday. The second-year midfielder helped blunt a powerful attack, which also hinged on a strong performance by UBC goalkeeper Emily Moore keeping the ball out of the net.
“I was focused on winning my battles in the middle (Thursday) and not letting Montreal turn and get up field," said Sangha. "I tried to support my team as much as possible and I'm super excited about our result."
She was named to the tourney all-star squad, joining four other teammates.
Elder sister Anisha, also a midfielder, is in her fourth year as a T-bird.
They advanced to the final with a 1-0 decision over the Acadia Axemen, with Steer’s tally in the 76th minute standing up as the difference.
New Westminster’s Nesa Reehal, meanwhile, didn’t see a lot of action during the U Sports championships, but scored the crucial goal in the Canada West semifinal that locked up a berth to the nationals. The first-year NWSS alumna cashed in the game’s lone marker, at the 78th minute mark, as UBC edged archrival Trinity Western to advance to the regional final. It ended a two-year drought for the program, and set the wheels in motion for the national victory.
"It was so exciting," said Reehal after scoring her first career Canada West playoff goal just 17 minutes after being subbed on. "I'm so happy to have fought for my team and come on as a sub. It just felt so good to make a difference. I'm just so proud of everyone for working so hard and working for each other."