Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – Cheers from the visiting Victoria Vikes' fan base hadn't even died down when Brittany Costa took the wind right out of their sails.
Just 27 seconds after the MacEwan Griffins conceded the opening goal in Canada West women's soccer action on Friday night at Clarke Stadium, the second-year midfielder scored to put a wrench in the Vikes' momentum. The Griffins never allowed them to wrest it back in posting a 2-1 redemptive win over the very team that prevented them from advancing to the U SPORTS women's soccer nationals last year.
Raeghan McCarthy, who scored the game-winner in extra time at the end of the first half, noted MacEwan's 1-0 loss to Victoria in the Canada West semifinals in 2017 was fresh on their minds.
"We had a bad taste in our mouths coming into this game because last year obviously we wanted to go to nationals," she said. "We just came in wanting to win. We knew this was a big game and we had to send them home with a loss. We were just coming in super excited to give them a good game and win."
A good game it was as both teams attacked with vigour and speed. The combatants traded early chances: MacEwan's Kaylin Hermanutz slid a breakaway shot wide of the post in the eighth minute before Victoria's Katie Carrothers hit the crossbar off a corner kick in the 15th.
Finally, in the 32nd minute, the Vikes cracked the goose-egg when Brea Christie's 30-yard free kick bent around the wall and bounced around before Georgia Bignold knocked it into the top left corner.
The goal hadn't even yet been announced, though, before MacEwan mounted a counter-attack with Suekiana Choucair feeding Hermanutz in the middle, who then dished to Costa on the right for a perfect strike to the upper left of the net.
"It's a cardinal sin to give away a goal after you've scored," said Victoria head coach Tracy David. "You have to be really focused within the next 10 minutes after you've scored so you don't give it back. We gave it back to them. Credit Grant MacEwan. They crafted a great first goal."
Equally as deflating for the Vikes, however: just as they were preparing to head into half-time knotted 1-1, the Griffins scored in extra time.
Salma Kamel – who rushed the decisions of Vikes defenders all night with her speed up front – arrived at a through ball just before challenging keeper Puck Louwes, chipping the shot off of her and right onto McCarthy's boot, who made no mistake into the empty net.
"The second goal, it was poor decision-making on our part right before the half, which was a killer," said David. "Absolute killer. That's another cardinal sin.
"We committed two major errors that, really, we have to do better at. So, I'm a little bit disappointed that way. I thought it was a very competitive game, very good game. Both teams were looking to attack and to fight. For us to give away that goal hurt."
Victoria had some chances in the second half to get the tying goal, most notably when Caitlin Millham cut dangerously into the middle in the 51st minute and forced keeper Emily Burns to lay out to stop a low ripper.
Ultimately, though, the Griffins closed out the game with their fitness, putting on an impressive display of track-meet speed that didn't allow the Vikes any time and space to set up.
"We're playing a little bit differently, we're pressing a lot and giving teams very little time to play because at this level these teams are very good," said Griffins head coach Dean Cordeiro. "If you give them time to play, they'll dissect you.
"For us, we didn't let UVic get into a rhythm where they could bounce balls up the pitch and through," he added. "They've got a ton of speed up front and they like to get inside between our fullbacks and our centre-backs. We weren't allowing that. We kept them to the outside and I think we got numbers behind the ball. I thought our transition to attack was fantastic and we did what we needed to do."
In a battle between two of the top keepers in the conference, Burns made eight saves for MacEwan, while Louwes stopped seven for Victoria.
With their fourth-straight victory, the Griffins improve to 5-1-1 in the Canada West standings. Victoria, meanwhile, falls to 4-4-0.
The Griffins will gear up for a visit from the UBC Thunderbirds (6-2-0) on Sunday (12 p.m., Clarke Stadium), while Victoria will travel to Prince George, B.C. to meet the UNBC Timberwolves (1-4-2), also on Sunday (12 p.m. local time).