Griffins slay a dragon with huge win over nemesis Calgary that earns them a home playoff date

Erin Van Dolder battles against Calgary's Taylor Wells, while game-winning goal scorer Grace Mwasalla, left, looks on Sunday (David Moll photo).
Erin Van Dolder battles against Calgary's Taylor Wells, while game-winning goal scorer Grace Mwasalla, left, looks on Sunday (David Moll photo).

Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics

CALGARY – Every knight has dragons to slay on their quest for the gold and it's no different when that metaphor is inserted into the sports world.

For the MacEwan Griffins women's soccer team, that giant dragon was a full grown Dinosaur.

On Sunday as the Griffins put forth a heroic effort to secure a 3-0 victory over Calgary, they finally bested their nemesis for the first time in nine regular season tries since entering Canada West in 2014.

And the stakes were gigantic; the victory clinched top spot in the Central Division for the Griffins, which earned them a home playoff game after closing with the best record (10-2-0) in the program's Canada West history.

"It means everything," said head coach Dean Cordeiro. "I think it shows we're making incremental gains every year. Our win percentage has improved. It's our first 10-win season on a reduced schedule, as well. We see the growth. The team is buying in and we're getting better every day. I love this team. We're going to keep getting stronger. We're going to take it one game at a time."


That's precisely what they had to do after losing 4-0 to the same Dinos team a day earlier.

"We just had to go back to playing our game," said Cordeiro. "Yesterday, we don't want to make excuses, but it was terrible conditions, albeit the same for both teams. I think we let it get to us a little bit too much. We didn't mind our performance, but we didn't play like we could.

"We had some good team meetings, got some things off everyone's chests and we went out there and played like we could. Today, the girls played 90 minutes of a very clean game we can all be proud of."

With the win, the Griffins will host an opening round playoff match next Saturday vs. UFV (6-4-2), who finished third in the West Division. Game time will be 1 p.m. at Clarke Stadium (Canada West TV presented by Co-op). Calgary (9-2-1) finished second and will visit Saskatchewan (7-2-3) in their opening round match.

Hannah Supina and the rest of MacEwan's defenders were key in keeping Calgary off the scoresheet on Sunday (David Moll photo).

On Sunday, Griffins rookie Grace Mwasalla stole the show after she was inserted into the starting lineup and scored the game-winner just seven minutes into the contest off a pass from Salma Kamel.

Mwasalla, who ended up playing the full 90 minutes, also drew an assist on Meagan Lemoine's third goal of the game in extra time at the end of the second half. But it was her work on MacEwan's second goal – a Raeghan McCarthy strike in the 61st – that really sealed the team's player of the game honour.

"Grace had a goal and an assist and people wouldn't have saw this on the second goal," explained Cordeiro, "but it came from her effort. We had a long throw-in whipped in and we were caught a little high and unbalanced. Grace, who was our deepest player on their goalkeeper, just booked it back, denied their player and won the ball back 30 yards away, got it to Kaylin (Hermanutz), who played it to Raeghan, which led to the insurance marker."

Mwasalla's two-point game meant she finished the season with five goals and eight points, which ties the program record for the most by a rookie in a Canada West campaign. But both previous record-holders Isabelle Dobbin and Meagan Lemoine reached that mark in 14 games and 14 starts, though, while Mwasalla did it in 12 (and just seven starts).

"She's not playing like a rookie, she's playing like a fifth year," said Cordeiro. "This team just rallies around her.

"I'm super proud of Grace and everything she's accomplished as a first year this year."

Cordeiro noted two other new additions to his starting 11 made major impacts, too. Rookie Anneka Odinga shut down Calgary's top players in a sterling 90-minute performance defending, while goalkeeper Breanna Truscott made five saves for her second shutout of the season.

"We made three changes to (the starting lineup) today," said Cordeiro. "We're deep and we believe in this team. We knew we needed to get some fresh legs out there. Those three players who went in made a big impact."

One other program record fell as the 2021 regular season wrapped up: Nikki Brodeur broke both the team and rookie shooting percentage record, posting a .364 percentage.