Griffins can't find finishing touch in 2-0 loss to UBCO Heat

UNBCO keeper Ronan Woodroffe gets a hand on a ball in front of Jakob Sievert in the first half on Sunday (Rebecca Chelmick photo).
UNBCO keeper Ronan Woodroffe gets a hand on a ball in front of Jakob Sievert in the first half on Sunday (Rebecca Chelmick photo).

Jefferson Hagen
MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – A chance to strengthen their playoff position was there for the taking against the winless UBC Okanagan Heat, but the MacEwan Griffins men's soccer team picked the worst time to come out flat.

A day after dominating Victoria and having to settle for a 1-1 draw, the Griffins couldn't score at all in a tough 2-0 loss to the Heat, who were playing for the first time in two weeks.

It's the first victory of the 2022 Canada West campaign for UBC Okanagan, who improve to 1-3-1. MacEwan is now 2-2-3.

"We have to be honest with ourselves – we always are – and we didn't play well today," said MacEwan head coach Adam Loga. "We lacked hunger, we lacked will. It was our worst game (of the season). 

"It's just unfortunate given how well we played yesterday. To play well like we did yesterday and only come up with one point … that's why you have to grab them when they're on the table because you'll have stinkers like we did today, and we have nothing to show for it over the weekend."

Yeah, a one-point weekend was hardly what the Griffins had in mind facing two teams below .500 in the standings. They had a golden opportunity to strengthen their hold on second place in the Prairie Division, but instead are left searching for answers. 

While the run of play was relatively back and forth and a tie was probably the deserved result for both teams, the Griffins' offence lacked a finishing touch. Multiple golden chances were sent wide or high, while their best opportunity of the match – a 70th-minute header by Abass Ajibade off a free kick – was saved off the line by UBCO defender Jacob York.

"I think a little bit of it is we need to understand they all count the same whether they look pretty or not," said Loga, whose offence – highly touted on paper – has only generated eight goals in seven games so far. "They all count for one. Sometimes we were guilty of being a bit too cute around endzone four there, 25 yards out when really we just had to have a dig at goal and see what happens."

UBCO opened the scoring in the 51st minute when Malachi Emerson picked the pocket of a MacEwan defender at the top of the box and went in alone. Josh Stayko came out to challenge and got a piece of it, but not enough to keep it out of the net.

After multiple great chances by the Griffins that either weren't on target or resulted in the ball being played back out, UBCO put the game away in the 81st off a counterattack. 

Julian Pascual zipped down the left side and crossed it perfectly into Matteo Bigattini, who expertly deflected it into the top corner.

A late desperate flurry from the Griffins resulted two great chances from the top of the box, but Stefan Gajic cracked one just over the bar and Egzon Jeteshi hit another one wide. 

Stewart Jamieson looks for an opening against UBCO's Jacob York on Sunday. York later saved a goal off the line for the Heat (Rebecca Chelmick photo).

MacEwan ended up out-shooting UBCO 15-12, but the Heat had more on target (6-4). 

Heat goalkeeper Ronan Woodroffe earned the clean sheet with three saves, while Stayko stopped 4/6.

The Griffins were without two starters when the match began as Chance Carter was a late scratch with an injury and Michael Ho was suspended one game for too many yellow cards. When Jakob Sievert and Ethan Monaghan went down with injuries early in the first half, the Griffins were forced to lean on their depth.

"We relied on a lot of depth today and it was a group that hasn't really played together," said Loga. "Obviously, a lot of these things were game-time decisions as well, so we just had to deal with it."

Next up for MacEwan is an epic B.C. road trip Sept. 23 at Trinity Western, followed by a visit to UNBC in Prince George on Sept. 25. UBCO, meanwhile, returns home to host Mount Royal on Sept. 23 and Lethbridge on Sept. 25.