Dan Khavkin, Cougar Athletics
CALGARY - Two goals less than five minutes apart was enough to hold a late second-half push by the Mount Royal Cougars who had their home-opening match spoiled at the hands of the UBCO Heat, holding on to a 2-1 score-line on a bitterly cold Saturday afternoon.
Both teams started the fixture flat-footed, as the weather slowed the tempo early on in the match.
UBCO however, were the sharper team leading up to their first goal in the 25th minute as Jessica Ambrosio gave her Heat side the first lead of the game. Her midfielder played a strong bit of possession which lead to a through ball being sent in by Jillian Hunt. Twisting and turning against the Cougar back-line, Hunt sent a polished delivery to Ambrosio who slid the ball past Cougar net-minder Cailyn Leeson on the one-on-one for her third goal of the year.
MRU almost replied instantly off the ensuing kick-off as a quick one-two from within their half sent veteran Erin Holt down the line and had the Cougar's first threatening chance of the match. Holt rammed her way down the Heat touchline and managed to unload a shot on the near post but ultimately got stuffed by Heat goalkeeper Iona Lawson. Lawson's first test in net changed the outcome of the game as less than five minutes later, UBCO doubled their lead off a second assist from Hunt.
The Heat as they did most of the game, recovered from any counter-attack the Cougars had and marched up the field with possession. Setting up in passing formations, Hall slid in another smooth through ball but this time to Kylee Walker. Walker was in between a circle of Cougar players and managed to take a shot across her body and guided the ball out of the reach of Leeson for her third goal on the year.
MRU regrouped heading into half-time, dominated the final 45.
"I was pleased with our second half," said Cougar bench-boss Tino Fusco as his Cougar side held the majority of possession and played with more sense of urgency in the second half.
Playing on the front-foot and with momentum, MRU got on the board courtesy of sophomore Jullien Ramirez's first goal of the season. After a ball was sent into the Heat area, the Cougars pelted two shots as Lawson who brilliantly stood her ground at point-blank range, making a double save with the second being while she was on the floor. The third shot was finally rifled over everyone's head by Ramirez who brought her Cougar side back to life.
MRU maintained pressure throughout the remainder of the last half an hour but couldn't manage to break down a sound and disciplined Heat defence who held onto their 2-1 win.
"The first half we started off pretty well, in the second half the Cougars came out and put us under pressure and showed some really good stuff themselves," said UBCO head coach Craig Smith.
"We really didn't need to make any adjustments… we just attempted to play structured like in the first half but credit to Mount Royal for commanding us in the second half."
UBCO stay undefeated through their first three games with a 2-0-1 record and head up to Edmonton to face the Alberta Panda whilst MRU drops to 1-2-0 heading into tomorrow's match at home against Thompson River at 11 a.m.