Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – Wasting little time in christening a new season with a goal just over two minutes in, the MacEwan Griffins blanked cross-town rival Alberta 2-0 in their Canada West women's soccer home opener on Saturday.
"We spent the day yesterday working on some set pieces and we wanted to be sharp," said MacEwan head coach Dean Cordeiro, whose team improved to 4-1-2 in regular season meetings against Alberta since coming into Canada West in 2014. "You never know when you're going to need to use them. We were able to execute one of the free kicks we drew up.
"With that being said, you can draw up anything you want, but you have to execute it. We had the right person with Raeghan McCarthy able to slot that one for us."
Grace Mwasalla made it 2-0 for MacEwan when she volleyed a Meagan Lemoine throw-in under the bar from the top of the box in the 40th minute – a stunning tally, serving notice that the rookie is here to make some noise this season.
"It might be the goal of the year already," said Cordeiro. "Grace Mwasalla, to hit that clean laces off a throw in and go top bins … just world class. She's a special talent and you're going to be hearing her name a lot this season."
Alberta was under siege for most of the first half, finally registering its first shot of the contest in the 40th minute.
Maya Morrell moves the ball upfield against a Pandas defender on Saturday (Chris Piggott photo).
The Pandas were much better in the second 45, pressing to get on the board with a couple of dangerous chances, including a scramble inside the box in the 70th minute off a corner kick. Brooke Lang had the visitors' best chance in the 75th, when she knifed into the box and got a knee on a free kick, but the ball bounced over the bar.
"We'll take the clean sheet," said Cordeiro. "We need to be a little bit sharper on set pieces. Credit U of A. They threw everything at us in the second half. It was a real scrappy game. I think that plays more to them than us, but we've got to find ways to win those as well."
Bianca Castillo made four saves for the shutout as the Griffins outshot the Pandas 14-8 (4-4 in shots on goal).
"We really wanted to get that third goal because I think it would have calmed things down, but we did what we wanted to do defensively, kept them in check," said Cordeiro. "I'm happy with our 90-minute performance today."
Next up for the Griffins is a Sept. 12 match vs. Calgary (12 p.m., Clareview Stadium).