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Top-ranked UBC/UVic tough test for soccer Heat this weekend

The UBC Okanagan Heat are being thrown into the fire on the opening weekend of the 2016 CIS Canada West Conference men’s soccer season.

Whether they’ll be seared by the No. 1-ranked UBC Thunderbirds on Sunday (3 p.m.) and the No. 2 University of Victoria Vikes on Saturday (3 pm.) at UBCO will depend largely on the host team’s ability to improve on its goal production of a year ago.

<who> Photo Credit: Lorne White/KelownaNow </who>Heat's Luke Warkentin is back to provide much-needed offence.The Heat, seeded 10th going into their third season of CIS play, were 12th in goals scored in 2015 en route to 3-5-4 regular-season record and a fifth-place finish in the seven-team Pacific Division. Scoring only a goal a game (12 in 12 games) again would likely have the Heat again on the outside looking in come playoff time.

But cause for optimism is in the return of sophomore Luke Warkentin of Surrey’s Semiahmoo Secondary School. The 5-foot-11 forward scored four times last season to lead the anemic Heat offence and is being looked to lead the charge up front in 2016.

Head coach Dante Zanatta, going into his sixth season at the helm of the Heat, will be counting heavily on the likes of fourth-year Darrell Plantz of Langley, junior Cole Kingzett of Penticton and sophomore Tyler Shalansky of Kelowna (Immaculata) to step up to fill in the large gap left by Enzo Paal, who led the team in points (six) last season.

Newcomers hoping to contribute offensively will be forward Zachery Rachynski of Kamloops, midfielder Nikhil Reddy of Surrey, Christian Taylor of Courtenay and Corbin Beauchemin, an impressive rookie out of Immaculata High School.

<who> Photo Credit: Lorne White/KelownaNow </who>UBCO goalkeeper Tait (Christopher) Cuthill anchored one of Canada West's top-ranked defences last season.Defensively, the Heat will be looking to at least repeat their performance of last season when they finished tied for fourth among the 14 teams by allowing 18 goals in their 12 games.

That had a lot to do with the outstanding play of 6-foot-5 goalkeeper Tait (Christopher) Cuthill of Delta, returning for his fourth season in the CIS.

Cuthill started in eight of the 11 games he played last season. He finished second in Canada West in save percentage (.826), goals against (12) and goal-against average (1.09), while recording a pair of shutouts.

With the loss of graduate defenders Harrison Shrimpton and Brandon McCallum, Cuthill and the Heat will bank on the continued solid support of third-years Ryan Jerry of Summerland and Shaun Pilcher and the youthful enthusiasm of rookie defenders Liam Foulger of Surrey United and Spencer Young of Kelowna’s Okanagan Mission Secondary.

Following their two home games this weekend on Nonis Field, the Heat will hit the road for games in Langley against the No. 7-ranked Trinity Wester Spartans on Sept. 2 and the No. 5 Fraser Valley Cascades on Sept. 3. They’ll return to UBCO to play host to the University of Calgary on Sept. 17 and the University of Lethbridge on Sept. 18.

Meanwhile, the UBCO women’s soccer team will host an exhibition game against Grande Prairie College at UBCO on Saturday beginning at 11 a.m. and will meet Douglas College of New Westminster on Sunday, also at 11 a.m.

The Lady Heat begin Canada West regular-season play on Sept. 10 in Lethbridge while their first home game is set for Sept. 17 against the visiting University of Northern B.C. Timberwolves.

Heat Men's Soccer Schedule

Heat Men's Soccer Roster

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