WSOC: Thunderbirds score off deflected free kick to edge Griffins

WSOC: Thunderbirds score off deflected free kick to edge Griffins

Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – Bounces are often earned, which is how one might best describe the fortuitous one that the UBC Thunderbirds got to score the only goal in a 1-0 victory over the MacEwan Griffins in Canada West women's soccer action on Sunday.

Full marks for a variety of pressure they put on the MacEwan defence throughout the game, the T-Birds finally found the scoresheet in the 70th minute when Emma Kallner's 25-yard free kick deflected off the top of the wall and into the far side of the net past Emily Burns, who had no chance.

"I think overall, we had a few other chances and unfortunately they didn't go in," said UBC head coach Jesse Symons. "We kept fighting through. Great character from the team and great stuff for a fifth-year player to score her first-ever goal in that win today."

MacEwan had a glorious chance to tie the contest in extra time when UBC keeper Emily Moore got a hand on a Meagan Lemoine header and preserved the 1-0 result.

"It's splitting hairs when you've got teams like us and UBC fighting for top spot in the division," said MacEwan head coach Dean Cordeiro. "It always comes down to set pieces, it seems. There wasn't much separating both teams in the run of play.

"We fought to the end," he continued. "We came very close. Their keeper, credit her, made a helluva save in stoppage time off Meagan Lemoine's header. We're unfortunately on the wrong side of this one."

In the battle between two of the top teams in the Pacific Division, UBC moves to 7-2-0 with its fourth-straight win, while MacEwan sees its own four-game winning streak snapped in falling to 5-2-1.

"We have a lot of respect for MacEwan," said Symons, whose team defeated the Griffins 2-1 in the Canada West bronze medal match in 2017. "We always have tight games with them. We just keep pushing away and figure out a way to break them down.

"Full respect to them, though. They've beaten some great teams this year and we had to come here and do our job. Fortunately, we're walking away with three points."

UBC outshot MacEwan 13-11 (8-6 in shots on goal) and led 5-1 in corner kicks, but the time of possession was fairly equal throughout the contest.

Early on, though, the T-Birds had the lion's share of early chances in the attacking third of the field.

Michelle Jang and Alyssa Hunt challenged the MacEwan D regularly throughout the half. The former nearly made hay in the first minute, forcing Emily Burns to make a diving stop, while the latter had a couple of dangerous threats, including ripping a low 30th-minute shot bound for the left corner before Burns got a hand on it and Sarah Riddle cleared the rebound.

"I thought the first half we actually created some bright lights and their keeper made a couple of great saves," said Symons. "Fortunately we went in at half still tied."

Fortunate because even though MacEwan struggled to link up attacks for much of the opening half, they had a golden chance to open the scoring in the 45th minute when Suekiana Choucair's 19-yard free kick from the right of the box, deflected off a wash of bodies in front and would have snuck inside the post if not for keeper Emily Moore, who laid out to tip it wide.

"I wasn't happy with our start to the game," said Cordeiro. "I thought UBC came out flying and put us on our heels early on. But after the first 20 minutes or so, I thought we settled in and starting coming back. It's a game of inches. Right before half-time we hit the inside of the post and they clear it off the line on the corner kick. It's a different game if you score that first goal. We all know that. Unfortunately for us, they got it first."

Burns made seven saves for MacEwan, while Moore stopped six for the Thunderbirds. Her back line deserved to share in the clean sheet as they stymied the Griffins and limited dangerous chances.

If there is a consolation prize for the Griffins, it's that they earned nine of a possible 12 points in running the tough gauntlet against four B.C. powers – beating Trinity Western, UFV and Victoria before Sunday's loss to UBC.

"I'm very happy (with that), but the competitive side of me today wanted a little bit more," he said. "To be fair, we didn't play our best game today. We were good, but we needed to get to another gear here today if we wanted to walk away with the three points."

Next up for the Griffins is a two-game road trip to UNBC on Oct. 5-6, while UBC returns home to host Victoria on Oct. 5.