The UBC Thunderbirds remain positive despite being eliminated from the West Canada soccer playoffs

“This group got better every week. They learned what it takes to win, that effort that is necessary.” – UBC Soccer Coach Blake Nill

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UBC Thunderbirds chief banker Blake Nill sees some of his current members on the 2007 Calgary Dinos team he coached.

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That young-talented Dinos team took fourth and final place in the playoffs in Western Canada football that year, thanks to a 4-4 record. They were sent off in the league semifinals, losing 27-5 to the Manitoba Bisons, but would later win the first of six straight Hardy Cup Canada West titles.

This year’s UBC team, which was packed with young talents like first-year quarterback Garrett Rooker, first-year running back Isaiah Knight, and a host of linemen on both sides of the ball, took the fourth and Last place in the playoffs in Western Canada with a 3. -3 mark. They lost their semifinal meeting with the Saskatchewan Huskies by a 39-17 count on Saturday in Saskatoon.

Nill trained nine seasons in Calgary before signing with UBC prior to the 2015 season.

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“I think we’ll learn from it, like we did in 2007,” Nill said of the playoff loss. “This group got better every week. They learned what it takes to win, that effort that is necessary.

“The scoreboard got away from us a bit in the last quarter on Saturday, but we were on it for 50 minutes.”

A six-yard touchdown by UBC freshman Lucas Mastrodomenico and the next point later cut Saskatchewan’s lead to 22-17 with 12:29 remaining in the fourth quarter. UBC allowed two touchdowns and a field goal in the final eight minutes.

Rooker completed 22 of 33 for 218 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. Knight rushed for 75 yards on 11 carries, while Rooker had a touchdown run on his five carries for 16 yards.

Saskatchewan (6-1) will now host Manitoba (5-2) for the Hardy Cup Canada West title after Manitoba scored a 43-17 victory over the Alberta Golden Bears (3-4).

Saskatchewan beat Manitoba 41-12 in their only regular season head-to-head meeting on October 30.

The Huskies are hosting the West Canada championship game for the first time since 2009.

Saskatchewan lost that 2009 game to a Calgary team led by Nill.

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