The University of Victoria Vikes women’s field hockey team enter their final regular season games this weekend, Oct. 24-25, against the visiting Calgary Dinos. With their current 5-0-1 record the Vikes have already secured the Canada West title for 2015 with the bonus of entering the upcoming CIS-FHC Championship as the tournament’s top seed. The young Dinos are 0-6 but have shown steady improvement over the season.

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The Vikes blanked the Calgary Dinos 2-0 in both early season encounters, Oct. 3-4. Alberta snow and temperatures made the game uneasy for both teams as the turf was cleared of a layer of snow just moments before the start of the game. Despite their winless record the Dinos held UBC last weekend to a close score line in their second of two games in Vancouver. The Dinos overcame a first-half 3-1 deficit to tie the game 3-3 in the second half. UBC bounced back to eventually win 5-3.

“Calgary has a new coach from Australia who is helping create a new culture, building on what Henre Meyer has done the past couple of years,” said Vikes head coach Lynne Beecroft of the Dinos new bench boss Peter Taylor. “Peter is also the high performance coach for Field Hockey Alberta and has made their squad a very well-structured team. They are also putting a lot of emphasis on fitness, which will always be beneficial.”

For the Vikes, this weekend will be a test to bring the level of pace they expect to have at nationals. With the conference title already in the bag the Vikes know this weekend will be important for setting the bar.

“We just need to be here this weekend,” said Beecroft. “We just need play and really compete. We still want to fine tune and improve on things before nationals including creating scoring opportunities and finishing on those chances. We know this field and the conditions and hopefully that will help us a bit too.”

The Vikes will be looking to neutralize the strengths of Calgary including fifth-year goal keeper and national team member Beckett Frisch, the reigning Canada West Goalkeeper and Player of the Year. In addition the Dinos have benefited from the strength of fourth year Janelle Rice and rookie Sabrina Wong in the midfield, while Jessica Britton has been an stalwart defender in the backfield.

“For us, we have benefited from a lot of versatility and having different line-ups the past few games,” added Beecroft on the ability of several of her players to constantly be able to go from the back field to the front line and vice versa. “We can mix and match and have different combinations, which can sometimes make it hard for teams to figure out how to play us.”

The Vikes will rely on the speed of Lizzie Yates, a third-year who has shown immense talent both as a striker and on the defence line. The Shawnigan Lake School graduate already has scored two goals in regular season. Fourth-year forward Amanda Kurianowicz leads the Vikes in scoring with four goals to date and combined with Yates up front provides a lot of speed and depth on attack.

Through the middle of the pitch fourth-year Vike Andrea Jones has often been tasked with some of the toughest defensive responsibilities. Jones combined with central defender Annie Walters-Shumka provides a tough barrier to get through.

“Annie reads the game well and is excellent at tackling, interceptions and generating counter attacks,” added Beecroft of the Claremont graduate. “Annie is an overall sturdy defender for us and (Jones) also reads the game well but one of AJ’s biggest contributions is her communication and ability to direct traffic.”

This weekend will also mark the final home game for fifth-year Vikes defender Alanna Macdonald. The Coquitlam, B.C. native invested four seasons into the Vikes program following her first season with the Alberta Pandas, after which Alberta’s program folded. Macdonald traditionally came to the Vikes as a defender, while the past season she has also shown her strengths and versatility playing both up front and in the back.

The Vikes and Dinos will battle it out for their final two regular season games on Oct. 24-25. Both games will take place at 11 a.m. at UVic’s water-based turf. Canada West major awards and all-star presentations will follow Sunday’s game. Live stats will be available for both games athttp://canadawest.org/sports/fh/2015-16/schedule

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