Rich Abney, UNBC Athletics
PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. - The University of Northern British Columbia Women's soccer team battled one of the hottest teams in Canada West to the final whistle, but fell just short, losing a 3-2 game to the MacEwan Griffins on Friday, October 5th, 2018.
After chances at both ends, it was the Griffins who were rewarded for their sustained pressure in the 16th minute. A corner kick from Suekiana Choucair found the head of Jamie Erickson, who made no mistake beating TWolves keeper Brooke Molby for her third goal of the Canada West campaign.
Seven minutes later, a free kick from Erickson led to a scramble in front of Molby, who had little chance on a Salma Kamel effort from just five yards out. It was Kamel's first of the season, stretching the lead to 2-nil.
"On set pieces we were really strong today, and that is something we have been working on in practice," said Erickson after the game. "I thought our forwards went on some good runs, putting the backline under pressure, which helps for sure."
Before the half was through, the home side cut into the deficit. Third year Paige Payne found herself on a break, splitting the MacEwan defense, and beating Emily Burns from twenty yards out. The goal was Payne's sixth of the season.
"The goals are coming because the team is coming together," said Payne after the match. "We have an attacking mindset, we are working hard in the box, and it is a team effort."
In the second half, the Griffins applied pressure to the Timberwolves' back end, creating a number of opportunities. Molby, a second-year from Squamish, was up to the task, turning away chances from Raeghan McCarthy and Kamel.
The TWolves turned the tables and found themselves with numerous chances off the feet of Payne, Sofia Jones, and Kiana Swift. Burns was there with timely stops on all those chances, maintaining the visitors' lead.
"UNBC definitely has some very fast forwards, so keeping them under control was key today," said Erickson. "We were trying to possess the ball, swing it around, and tire them out."
In the 83rd minute, off another set play, Grant MacEwan would pad their lead. Hannah Supina would send a corner kick into the box, where Erickson, again would locate the ball and make no mistake. Her fourth of the season was the insurance the Griffins were seeking, particularly with the Timberwolves generating chances at the other end.
"We definitely struggled on the set pieces. We need to make contact, because that team is hungry for goals," said Payne. "We need to not let them get to their spots."
UNBC would not go quietly, however, and were awarded a penalty kick in added time, after a collision in the Griffins box.
Payne would take it, and convert, beating Burns, and giving the Kitimat native her seventh goal of the season.
Time would be the Timberwolves' enemy, however, with the referee blowing the final whistle soon after.
The match also marked the return to the lineup for Griffins captain Kristyn Smart, who had been out of the lineup for over a year. Erickson pointed to her return as a rallying point for the MacEwan side.
"She tore her ACL last year in the second game of the season. It was her second time tearing her ACL. Her courage and determination really lifts this team, and it is a great story. She lifts everyone around her."
With the loss, the TWolves fall to 1-5-3, while the Griffins stay hot, improving to 6-2-1. The two teams will play the second part of the doubleheader Saturday night, 6 PM in Prince George.
"They are going to come back just as hard tomorrow, wanting a win, but so are we," said Payne. "We put up a fight, I think they were worried we were going to tie this one up. We are going to come back with the momentum we finished with, and really come out and work hard."