Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – An inability to extend their lead during a dominant first-half performance ultimately cost the MacEwan Griffins, who settled for a 1-1 tie with the visiting Saskatchewan Huskies in their Canada West women's soccer home opener on Friday night.
The Huskies scored on a broken play off a free kick in the 84th minute when Payton Izsak – dangerously close to being offside – found herself behind the defence and chipped it over Emily Burns' head to tie the game.
MacEwan had held a 1-0 lead for most of the contest when Jamie Erickson headed home Suekiana Choucair's corner kick in the eighth minute and were the better side for the bulk of the contest, outshooting the Huskies 22-10 (8-6 in shots on goal) and dominating corner kicks (9-3).
"I think we deserved better today in the full points, but in this league if you don't take the full points you're not going to walk away with it gifted," said MacEwan head coach Dean Cordeiro. "Good lesson. It's early, but we've got to be a little bit sharper come Sunday, for sure."
Saskatchewan was on its heels for nearly the entire first half as MacEwan pressured their defence into mistakes and were fortunate to go into the half only trailing 1-0.
Huskies defender Kallie Cowles deserved at least some of the credit when she blocked a sure goal from Meagan Lemoine at the top of the box in the 27th minute. Later, MacEwan's Kaylin Hermanutz couldn't connect with a corner kick that bounced right past her boot deep in the box.
All of that proved costly for the Griffins, who saw a different Huskies side in the second half.
"We didn't really do much," said Saskatchewan head coach Jerson Barandica-Hamilton, whose team took the play to the Griffins early in the second half. "It was just changing our mindset. We have a young team and it was just about believing in our ability and being confident playing our style. If we're going to go down, we're going to go down playing our style and believing in what we do."
Looking reborn after a near-invisible first half, Huskies' attacker Taneil Gay threatened the Griffins' D nearly every time she touched the ball in the second half. She was nearly rewarded for it in the 60th minute when she uncorked a blast from the top of the box that forced Burns to make a diving, highlight-reel save.
Saskatchewan then nearly scored in the 72nd minute when a corner kick had players diving all over the box in a wild scramble but Burns scooped up Cassidy Hayward's shot.
Finally, in the 84th, after a handball by MacEwan's Anna McPhee gave Saskatchewan a free kick from the right of the box, Izsak was able to convert Hayward's pass into a goal, albeit a bit of a controversial one, given the body language from the MacEwan players who were awaiting an offside call that never came.
"I thought we played a pretty darn good game and unfortunately succumbed to a late goal," said Cordeiro. "But there was still lots of time. We hit two posts after that and had a couple other chances to close out the match. Unfortunately, we needed two today and only got one.
"I think (their goal) really sparked us to conclude the game in the last 10 minutes or so, but unfortunately it was one of those games that I think we ran out of time."
Indeed, the Griffins were all over the Huskies in the waning moments of the contest, exasperated that they were unable to put it home. McPhee was stopped twice in tight by Jadyn Steinhauer, Brittany Costa hit the post and Meghan Oram blasted a sure goal over the net off a rebound from the middle of the box in the final minute.
"If there had been five more minutes, I think we're on the cusp of getting that second goal," said Cordeiro. "Again, we shouldn't be waiting until the final 10 minutes of the game to really turn it on. We've got to take our opportunities and take advantage of them a little bit sooner in the match and we won't be put in this situation."
MacEwan (1-1-1) will host Regina on Sunday (12 p.m., Clarke Stadium), while Saskatchewan (0-0-3) heads to UNBC on Sunday.
"I thought our first half wasn't the best, but Grant MacEwan's a good team and are experienced," said Barandica-Hamilton. "What a second half for our group. I'm so extremely proud.
"I think a tie, in the end, is maybe a fair result. I think we could have created a little bit more and been a little bit more dangerous. But what a dominant performance in the second half. For a young team, we're so, so excited about what the future holds for us."