Steady goalkeeper Truscott leads Griffins into U SPORTS national championship final

Breanna Truscott leaps into the arms of Griffins captain Samantha Gouveia after the Griffins beat UBC 1-0 in the U SPORTS semifinal on Saturday (Jefferson Hagen photo).
Breanna Truscott leaps into the arms of Griffins captain Samantha Gouveia after the Griffins beat UBC 1-0 in the U SPORTS semifinal on Saturday (Jefferson Hagen photo).

Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics

CAPE BRETON, N.S. – The wind was howling.

Hail even began pelting the players at one point during a wild U SPORTS women's soccer championship match on Saturday between the MacEwan Griffins and UBC Thunderbirds at Cape Breton University.

Imagine what it was like for the goalkeepers.

"The goal kicks and distribution was a big struggle," said Griffins starter Breanna Truscott, who still managed to cut through gusting winds with lasers off her boot. "Even with the wind and snow hitting my face, I was crying, it was hard to see. My eyes were just watering.

"There was a little more pace on the shots, corners were a little scary, but it's not too difficult."

Truscott made three saves to lead the Griffins to a 1-0 win over the Thunderbirds in overtime as they advanced to the U SPORTS national final on Sunday (11 a.m. MT) vs. Trinity Western University (WATCH HERE).

"Today, in crazy conditions, it was hard to get into a rhythm and play when you're up against the wind," said Griffins head coach Dean Cordeiro. "You can't imagine how difficult that is for a goalkeeper. I thought she handled the elements well and did what we needed her to do and kept the clean sheet."

Truscott's performance included using sticky hands to gobble up tricky corners, commanding a crowded box, and relying on positioning to properly judge wind-aided shots coming in hot, like they were shot out of a cannon.

"Her focus and ability to command the box is just second to none in this league," said Griffins goalkeeper coach Darren Woloshen. "It's just fantastic. Especially with the wind being as bad as it was today, she was fantastic with her ability to deliver good long kicks and just great distribution throughout."

No one of her saves was finer than when she laid out to stop a 25-yard free kick in the 90th minute by UBC's Katalin Tolnai that curled around the wall and was heading inside the left post.

Although MacEwan dominated possession and shots in the contest and were full marks for the victory, Truscott saved the day on that play.

"She stays focused for the 90 minutes," said Woloshen. "She's what I like to call a flat-line keeper. She's someone who can keep an even emotional state throughout the game and that, I really think, lends itself to her making those kinds of saves she made at the end."

Breanna Truscott organizes the Griffins' shape before a kick on Saturday (Jefferson Hagen photo).

Truscott is a bit of an underdog tale this season as she started the 2021 campaign as the backup to Bianca Castillo. With highly-touted first-year recruit Toni Gill also in the mix, the Griffins began a season-long competition for the right replacement for Emily Burns – a former U SPORTS second all-star team keeper – who graduated from the program after the 2019 season and now plays professionally in France's Division 1 Féminine.

"We are a GK union," said Truscott. "We're best friends supporting each other and pushing each other in training. We have a really good bond between the three of us, for sure."

But someone has to start. And the mantle has fallen to Truscott for the last six straight. Ever since making five saves in a 3-0 win over Calgary in the regular season finale, she has started every playoff game, stopping 20 of 23 shots, en route to a 4-1 record.

"I have to say here at MacEwan, we've got three starters," said Woloshen. "All three of the keepers in the mix could be starters and as a coach you have to make that decision – which hot hand do you go with at the time?

"Breanna's staying steady the entire time whether she was in the game or not. Bianca's doing the same thing and Toni, waiting in the wings, is also ready to go."

Truscott noted she's been riding a wave of confidence.

"I wasn't really playing at the beginning of the season because I was new to the team," said Truscott. "I was a transfer student and with the COVID year, I never really had a chance to play. Then I got my opportunity the last game of the season, to be honest. I've been following that momentum and keeping my confidence up and trying to push us forward."

Breanna Truscott watches a kick against UBC on Saturday (Jefferson Hagen photo).

Truscott has seven games of NCAA Div. 1 experience under her belt, spending the 2018 season with the University of Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks right out of Archbishop O'Leary high school.

"That was an amazing experience for me," she said. "It definitely pushed me to be more confident as I play. That was my biggest struggle – not being confident in myself. But playing as a freshman in Division 1 was a huge thing for me. I followed that and went with it."

Now, she's the Griffins' last line of defence as they head into the biggest game in program history. They will play the Canada West champion TWU Spartans in Sunday's final.

The Spartans enter the contest with a perfect 16-0-1 record in regular season and playoffs to date in 2021, but their only meeting against the Griffins (14-3-0) ended in defeat.

MacEwan beat TWU 2-0 in a preseason contest back on Aug. 20 in Edmonton when both teams had their regulars in the lineup.

Obviously, this is different, but the Griffins are certainly game to do battle.

"We know it's going to be another amazing battle versus one of the best programs in the country," said Cordeiro.

"For us, nothing changes. We're going to go out there and do what we do well. If we execute the game plan, I like our chances of winning a national championship."