Seven current and future Griffins soccer players part of Team Alberta for Canada Summer Games

Ali Blaybel is one of four MacEwan Griffins men's players on Team Alberta currently competing at the Canada Summer Games (Courtesy, Ali Blaybel).
Ali Blaybel is one of four MacEwan Griffins men's players on Team Alberta currently competing at the Canada Summer Games (Courtesy, Ali Blaybel).

Jefferson Hagen
MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – Seven present and future Griffins soccer players have been named to Team Alberta's rosters for the Canada Summer Games.

Current MacEwan men's players Ali Blaybel, Yusupha Bangura, Emmanuel Kanu and David Sithole are already in Niagara with a game under their belts – a scoreless draw against Nova Scotia in Sunday's preliminary round opener.

Current MacEwan women's soccer player Amelia Russo has cracked the Team Alberta roster for next week's competition in Niagara (starting Aug. 16), along with two Griffins' 2023-24 recruits – Brynn Hobal and Bryn Mortenson.

There would have been eight Griffins in the mix, but Ali Yildiz – MacEwan's stellar men's soccer rookie from a season ago – signed a pro deal in Turkey last week.

"The '04 age group is pretty talented, so for them to get a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go to an event like this is amazing," said Griffins men's soccer head coach Adam Loga. "I didn't want to hold them back from that, so I released them to go do that. 

"Hopefully they can turn some heads on the national stage and come back here ready to rock and ready to get after it. They're talented kids, part of a great recruiting class."

Loga coached Blaybel and Kanu at the 2019 Western Canada Summer Games – a roster also featuring Yildiz that won the tournament.

"I know they're able to be successful at those standards, so I'm looking forward to them hopefully bringing back a gold medal," he said.

Team Alberta's men's team will play another preliminary game against Yukon on Tuesday (2:30 p.m. MT). They would need to finish first in their pod of three teams in order to make the medal games, slated for Friday.

Amelia Russo passes the ball during exhibition action against Manitoba last week at Clareview. She and two 2023 Griffins recruits - Brynn Hobal and Bryn Mortenson - will represent MacEwan on Team Alberta next week in Niagara (Jefferson Hagen photo).

Griffins women's head coach Dean Cordeiro shares Loga's excitement for the opportunity provided to Russo and his two 2023 recruits.

"It just shows all the hard work they've put in the past few years," he said. "These age groups – the '04s, '05s and, in some cases, there are '06s who've made it – it's kind of one of those marquee events that all the top players hope they get selected to attend. It means everything to them. 

"It's important for us to support these (opportunities), so we're releasing our players and allowing them to attend. It's competitions and events like this which make our players better and those experiences and events are hard to come by. To go there and experience that is going to make Amelia Russo a better player for when she's back with the group here for our home opener."

St. Albert Impact product Hobal and Calgary Blizzard product Mortenson made the team as underagers from the 2005-born class.

"Very happy for them," said Cordeiro. "I'm very excited to follow them on their path that's hopefully a gold medal for Alberta."

Team Alberta women will open preliminary play on Aug. 16 vs. Saskatchewan (5:30 p.m. MT) and will also meet Manitoba on Aug. 18 (2:30 p.m. MT). Like the men, they would need to finish first out of those three to have a shot at the medal games, slated for Aug. 21.