Matt Johnson, Huskie Athletics
SASKATOON – After a two-goal deficit entering halftime, the University of Winnipeg Wesmen women's soccer team rallied with a strong second half to tie the Saskatchewan Huskies 2-2, on Saturday, Sept. 8, at Field 7 inside Nutrien Park.
"I was super proud of the character we showed to come back after being two-nil down," said Wesmen head coach Amy Anderson. "We made a couple of changes. We have more depth than I've ever had before, so I think we're taking advantage of that and I'm super proud of the girls, that was a well-earned point."
The match was the first of the 2018 regular season campaign for both programs and provided the teams with an opportunity to test themselves in Canada West action.
A pair of forwards were able to find the back of the net early in their seasons as Maya Gabruch and Hannah Gannitsos-Clark scored the goals for the Huskies.
Meanwhile, Shae-Lynn Dodds and Tyler Johnson found the back of the net for Winnipeg.
The Huskies came out looking to get on the board early, pouring on the chances, as Payton Izsak got free in the box, but her header was stopped by Madison Fordyce, keeping the score knotted at zeroes.
After Jocelyn Hudson made a fantastic tackle on Dodds in the 22nd minute, the Huskies jumped on the counter-attack; however, they were unable to finish on their second grade-A scoring chance of the first half.
"I thought we did a lot of good things in the first 25 minutes of the first half, I thought we probably deserved to be up three or four nothing, but we weren't as composed with our finishing as we need to be with this young group," said Huskie head coach Jerson Barandica-Hamilton. "I think that's the biggest thing, when we get our chances we have to capitalize on them."
Saskatchewan got on the board in the 37th minute, when Gabruch did well to fight off a pair of Wesmen defenders, and made no mistake with the strike as she found the corner of the net, marking the Huskies first goal of the season.
In extra-time of the first half, the Huskies received a last-minute marker off a beautiful Brynn Bowlescross which found its way to Gannitsos-Clark, who tapped the ball into the net giving the Huskies a 2-0 lead heading into half-time.
However, the Wesmen wasted little time in the second half in their comeback effort as Shae-Lynn Dodds battled off Bowles in the 53rd minute, in what was a terrific individual effort, and was able to get her club on the board, finding the back of the net which put the Wesmen within one.
In the 72nd minute, Saskatchewan substitute midfielder McKenna Olson had a glorious opportunity to make an instant impact off the bench, but her rocket from outside the area just sailed high.
After a Maeghan Lindsay free kick from outside the area was knocked down by Huskies goalkeeper Jadyn Steinhauer, Tyler Johnson pounced on a bouncing ball inside the area and pounded it home, evening the match at two-goals apiece.
Late in stoppage time, Dodds broke in on goal and had a terrific look at what would've been her second goal of the afternoon, but Steinhauer made a huge stop for Saskatchewan, preserving the draw and ensuring the club would come away with a single point in the season opener.
For a young-team like the Huskies who had four starters in the starting eleven, a positive showing was something that didn't go unnoticed by the team's head coach.
"It's a process and the first game, we got the point and didn't lose at home. Now we just got to be keep building for tomorrow," said Barandica-Hamilton.
Huskies first-year midfielder Haley Mercier was a standout in her Canada West regular-season debut, as she stood her own and dominated the middle of the pitch all afternoon long for Saskatchewan.
"Haley played 90 minutes and she didn't let down, she was very good in possession," said Barandica-Hamilton. "She was outstanding today."
The Huskies will continue their home stand when they play host to the University of Manitoba Bisons on Sept. 9 at 12 p.m. on Field 7 at Nutrien Park. While the Wesmen will also play their second game in as many days, as they stay in Saskatchewan to take on the University of Regina Cougars.