Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
CALGARY – With a downpour-soaked grass field the stage for the opening act of a weekend drama that will decide first place in Canada West's Central Division, the MacEwan Griffins came up short of the result they were looking for on Saturday.
After a 4-0 defeat to the Calgary Dinos, which snapped an eight-game winning streak for MacEwan, the showdown will come down to a single match.
The Griffins (9-2-0) must beat the Dinos (9-1-1) on Sunday (12 p.m., Canada West TV presented by Co-op) to finish first and host an opening round playoff game against either UFV (5-4-3) or Victoria (4-5-3).
If Calgary manages a win or tie, the Griffins will board a bus to Saskatoon next weekend to visit Saskatchewan (7-1-3) in the first round.
"We've got to turn the page," said MacEwan head coach Dean Cordeiro. "It is what it is. We knew we needed to get one of the two. You obviously want to put yourself in position to win both, but credit them. It was their Senior's Day being celebrated today, too, so those girls were emotional and rallying for each other. They played a very good game."
Cordeiro noted the opening goal was extra critical given the conditions on Saturday, which forced both teams to adjust to broken plays and other adversity all over the field.
"It's one of those things where I didn't mind our start," said Cordeiro. "It was kind of back and forth. We really held them in check and then we hit a crossbar (by Erin Van Dolder in the 24th minute) and almost got that first goal. In games like this, scoring first is critical. Unfortunately, we didn't put the ball in the back of the net.
"Then just before half-time, it was a broken play from the wide area with a ball whipped in. In these conditions, it's tough to hold, so the ball came off a rebound and one of their players was in the right place, right time and slotted it. It gave them the upper hand heading into half-time."
Laura Kautz's tally set the tone for the contest and with the Griffins playing from behind, they conceded three more in the second half (Kelsie MacDonald in the 64th minute, Montana Leonard in the 81st and Kautz again in the 87th). Leonard broke the Canada West single season record on her 17th goal of the season.
"We wanted to fight for it and go for it," said Cordeiro of the team's strategy to sacrifice some defence in order to create offence. "So, we pushed some people on and they were able to get a third and fourth late.
"Losing by one, two, three or four, a loss is a loss. We were trying to close the gap to at least get level and it didn't come today. We'll be better for it tomorrow and we'll be ready to go."
Van Dolder was named player of the game for MacEwan.
"She was all over the pitch today breaking up plays," said Cordeiro. "She won so many balls in the air, had quality passes to break lines and push forward. Erin really kept things together for us."