Wright's heroic tally sends Griffins to U SPORTS semifinals with 2-1 win over Queen's Gaels

Griffins players mob Abbey Wright after she scored the winning goal in the 81st minute on Thursday (Vaughn Merchant photo).
Griffins players mob Abbey Wright after she scored the winning goal in the 81st minute on Thursday (Vaughn Merchant photo).

Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics

-With files from U SPORTS

CAPE BRETON, N.S. – Abbey Wright found herself in alone with the ball on her boot in the 81st minute of a tied U SPORTS national championship quarter-final match and had one thought cross her mind.

"I was thinking 'please don't sky this, that would be really embarrassing,' " she said.

Instead, she slotted it inside the left post and became a hero.

"I was just thankful the ball got to me and I could do that for my team, and support them through that journey," said Wright, who was mobbed by teammates in a wild celebration on the field. "I'm just so grateful for them."

The win is MacEwan's first ever by any team at a U SPORTS national championship.

"The girls closed it out," said Griffins head coach Dean Cordeiro, whose squad had to repel a furious final push from the Gaels in the final moments of the match. "I'm so proud of them. It's a big moment for us.

"We keep talking every step along this journey. A couple weeks ago was a big step for our program," he added of a Canada West bronze medal win that punched their ticket to nationals for the first time. "But we're not here to just be competitive. We're here to win a national championship and we're one step closer after today's result."

The tally stood as the game-winner as the MacEwan Griffins beat the OUA champion Queen's Gaels 2-1 Thursday morning to advance to national semifinals.


The Griffins will meet the UBC Thunderbirds in a semifinal match on Saturday (8 a.m. MT WATCH HERE) that's a rematch of the Canada West semifinal between the two rivals.

Salma Kamel, right, celebrating with Grace Mwasalla, opened the scoring for the Griffins in the 35th minute (Vaughn Merchant photo).

Griffins' fifth-year senior Salma Kamel scored the opening goal of the match in the 35th minute when she volleyed a shot over the head of Queen's goalkeeper Kirstin Tynan.

But their lead was short-lived as Queen's Marissa Gravel replied to tie the game in the 40th minute.

Early in the second half, the Gaels garnered the first quality scoring chance, when sophomore forward Cecilia Way got behind the Griffins' defence, but sophomore goalkeeper Breanna Truscott darted out to take the ball off her foot and make a sliding save.

Wright's winner came off the second phase of a corner kick. Queen's cleared the ball, but Hannah Supina sent in a sublime pass to Wright, who timed her run to an open spot in the left of the box perfectly and ended up alone behind the Gaels' defence.

"You always want to score," she said. "The feeling is so great to have that huddle come in and all your teammates are so proud of you. It's just an honour to score."

Meagan Lemoine battles for a ball against Queen's on Thursday (Vaughn Merchant photo).

For all the work she does defensively as a regular 90-minute workhorse centre-back for the Griffins, Wright is earning a reputation for scoring big goals.

It wasn't that long ago she headed in (actually it was in off her teeth) the winner against UFV in the opening round of the Canada West quarter-finals. But Thursday's was the biggest she's ever scored.

"It's really something to see two of our defenders link up to score a massive goal," said Cordeiro. "I'm overjoyed. I'm very happy for Abbey. She plays the game the right way. She's tough to play against. We get her up the field on set pieces and in that case she got on the end of a second phase opportunity. Hannah found her, right place, right time and Abbey made no mistake on the finish."

Shortly after the Griffins took the lead on the Wright marker, they almost added an insurance goal but the shot attempt rang off the crossbar. Then they withstood a push from the Gaels, who subbed on an extra attacker, but weren't able to tie it.

"Full credit to Queen's," said Cordeiro. "They're a hell of a program – well coached – and their front three gave us problems. All three of those players are excellent and we knew we needed to keep the game in front of us for the majority of the game and I thought we did it. The one time we let them get behind us, you saw what happened. They finished on that opportunity.

"We preached at half-time again that we've got to keep the game in front of us. If we do that, we knew we would be in a situation where we could limit opportunities and that's exactly what happened."

MacEwan outshot Queen's 10-6 in the contest (5-4 on goal). Both goalkeepers were credited with three saves.

Samantha Gouveia receives her player of the game award following MacEwan's 2-1 win over Queen's (Vaughn Merchant photo).

Captain Samantha Gouveia was named player of the game for MacEwan. She fought through a physical contest where it looked like she might have to come out at one point.

"Credit to our staff here to get her right pretty quick and she was good to go," said Cordeiro. "We had a sub prepped because we were a little concerned. But we knew it would have to be bad for Sammy not to re-enter into that game. She didn't skip a beat. She's out there pulling the strings for us and was just a rock defensively."