Fifth-year Choucair factors in three set-piece goals as Griffins beat Bisons on Senior Day

Suekiana Choucair greets a welcoming party of Griffins teammates after opening the scoring on Sunday when her corner kick found the net (Chris Piggott photo).
Suekiana Choucair greets a welcoming party of Griffins teammates after opening the scoring on Sunday when her corner kick found the net (Chris Piggott photo).

Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – Fittingly, MacEwan's graduating seniors provided the script on Senior Day – factoring in all three goals – as the Griffins beat the visiting Manitoba Bisons 3-1 in Canada West women's soccer action Sunday at Clarke Stadium.

All three of MacEwan's markers were generated off first-half corner kicks from fifth-year Suekiana Choucair as they built an insurmountable lead.

Choucair led the Griffins with a goal and an assist, while fellow seniors Jamie Erickson and Sarah Riddle also picked up points as MacEwan improved their Prairie Division-leading record to 6-1-2. Manitoba falls to 4-5-1.

"It's funny enough that the first two goals of the match are senior to senior," said MacEwan head coach Dean Cordeiro, who hosted a post-game ceremony for 2019 graduating seniors Choucair, Erickson, Riddle, Emily Burns and Kristyn Smart. "Sometimes those things are meant to be."

MacEwan game MVP Choucair played a marvelous match, kick-starting the scoring spree when her 29th minute corner went straight in past Bisons keeper Karina Bagi and a ton of net-front traffic.

In the 36th minute, she soft-played a corner back to Riddle, who drove in from the right and sent a cross-crease pass to the back post where Erickson one-timed it in.

Then, Choucair completed the set piece hat-trick on the last play before half-time as rookie Sofia DiGiacomo elevated to head in her corner, recording her third goal in MacEwan's last three matches.

"I just think it created a really good atmosphere and it really showed the culture we have here that we all came together," said Choucair. "Because it was our senior's day, it made it just a little bit more special, so I think we all wanted to put our mark on it."

The Griffins made a special effort in pre-match preparations to concentrate on set pieces and it paid off.

"We weren't happy with where we at on set pieces with the personnel that we have, so we really worked on it this week," said Cordeiro. "We drew up a couple of different things that we thought we could execute today and, sure enough, it worked.

"Credit the players. They've got to go out and they've got to execute. We're giving them lots of information. They went out and made the right reads and made the right plays."

Jamie Erickson puts a one-timer past Manitoba keeper Karina Bagi for the game-winning goal in the first half on Sunday (Chris Piggott photo).

Manitoba got one back with 16 minutes left in the game when rookie Stefanie Young scored her fifth of the season, a beautiful back post header off a Hayley Ward cross. It's the first goal the Griffins have allowed during the run of play in nine games this season.

"First of all, I liked the attitude – forgetting about what happened in the first half," said head coach Vanessa Martinez Lagunas. "Although we were three goals down, we played well. The girls kept their head up and put pressure (on them) and we were rewarded.

"I think the goal was beautiful – a fantastic cross to the (back) post and our rookie Stef Young had a fantastic header on it. We know they have a fantastic defence and we're proud that we scored."

Bagi finished with 12 saves for the Bisons, including stopping point-blank shots in tight from Raeghan McCarthy and Sunder West in the final 10 minutes of the contest as the Griffins outshot the Bisons 30-9 (15-5 on goal).

Burns made four stops – her best coming off a hard blast from Manitoba leading scorer Jessica Tsai in the 63rd minute – to pick up her sixth win of the season.

MacEwan feted its graduating seniors in a post-game ceremony, complete with flowers and senior posters for each of the five players. Not only did they get to enjoy the ceremony, they got the three points in the bag first.

"It's an emotional game, but you've still got to execute the game plan," said Cordeiro. "You can't forget about the task at hand. This was an amazing ceremony for another fab five – we'll never forget the legacy that they've left for our program."

Next up for Manitoba is a city rivalry series against Winnipeg Oct. 10 and 12, while MacEwan gets set for their own cross-town rivalry set against Alberta on Oct. 12-13.