Mwasalla's frenetic scoring pace borne out being under-recruited and motivated by unfinished business

Grace Mwasalla heads the ball during action against Manitoba last Sunday. She scored the game-winner in a 2-1 triumph (Zachary Peters photo).
Grace Mwasalla heads the ball during action against Manitoba last Sunday. She scored the game-winner in a 2-1 triumph (Zachary Peters photo).

Jason Hills
For MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON — Grace Mwasalla is a great example of what a person can achieve if someone shows belief in them.

The third-year MacEwan Griffins women's soccer striker wasn't highly recruited coming out of Notre Dame high school in Calgary in 2020.

But all she's done since joining the Griffins program three years ago is create a huge buzz that wasn't there during her recruiting process.

She helped the Griffins win a national championship her rookie season. She followed it up with a monster second season with MacEwan, scoring 15 goals in 14 regular season games.

This year she's upped the ante even further scoring six goals in the Griffins first four games of the regular season.

She's scored four-straight game-winning goals – a program record – to help the Griffins to a 4-0 start this year. Her first-game winning goal of 2023 came in extra time in a thrilling 3-2 win over the Regina Cougars on Aug. 25 that broke the program's record for most career Canada West regular season goals, with 21.

Mwasalla now has 26 career goals after her red-hot start to the year.

She will look to continue her goal scoring prowess this weekend as the Griffins play host to the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns on Saturday (12 p.m., Clareview Field) and the Calgary Dinos on Sunday (12 p.m., Clarke Stadium, Canada West TV).

"My recruiting process wasn't the prettiest," said Mwasalla. "Not a lot of schools believed in me. (Griffins head coach) Dean (Cordeiro) was actually the only coach who I felt believed in me and my abilities.

"When I came to MacEwan, I wanted to prove to the other schools that passed me by that they made a mistake."

Grace Mwasalla celebrates after scoring the game-winning goal in MacEwan's opening contest of the season against Regina last month (Joel Kingston photo).

The Griffins have only been playing at the U SPORTS level since 2014, but under Cordeiro the program has made significant strides to becoming one of the top schools in the country for women's soccer.
When recruiting Mwasalla, one thing certainly stood out.

"What excited me about her was how driven she was and how passionate she was when she played the game," said Cordeiro.

"Maybe some schools didn't go the extra mile for her, but I knew when I laid eyes on her she was a special talent, she just needed someone to believe in her and she needed to be put in an environment to succeed, and she's done an incredible amount of work to get where she's at within our program.

"I'd be lying if I said I knew she'd unlock all of her potential, like she has, but there's no doubt in my mind, she's only scratching the surface. She's just getting started here."

Cordeiro has had several of his former players move on to the semi pro ranks of the UWS (United Women's Soccer) and League 1 as well as alumni who've gone pro like former goalkeeper Emily Burns (FC Nantes in France) and defender Jamie Erickson (Galway United FC in Ireland).

Cordeiro feels there's no doubt Mwasalla has the ability to play professionally when her career with MacEwan wraps up.

"I've never coached someone that has a knack for scoring in so many clutch moments like Grace has. She's such a game, and a big-time player. She's got that Mamba Mentality in her," said Cordeiro.

"She excites the fans every time she has the ball on her feet because you know she's capable of doing something special." 

While Grace Mwasalla is having a great season individually, her biggest focus is the entire team, who are aiming to return to the U SPORTS national championship (Joel Kingston photo).

Mwasalla certainly has her sights set on big goals on the pitch this season. While she's on pace to break the Canada West single season record of 17 goals, set by University of Calgary Dinos striker Montana Leonard in 2022, her biggest focus is to get the Griffins back into the national championship conversation.

After winning the U SPORTS Championship two years ago, last year the team lost the chance to defend their title after an eligibility violation resulted in the team having to forfeit 11 games, that included nine victories.

It was devastating for Mwasalla and her teammates, and now the team is striving towards getting back on to the national championship stage, once again.

"You can go through the motions sometimes as an athlete and go through the same routine, and for it (season) to end the way it did, I was lost. I didn't know what to do," she said.

"That experience taught me a lot. It's made me become more present throughout the day, and not take these experiences for granted.

"During games this year, if we face adversity of any kind, I think back to Oct.16, which was the day the ruling went down, and it just pushes me and motivates me to persevere. I've learned to enjoy every day, because you just don't know when something may end. Every time I put that jersey on, I don't take it for granted."

Mwasalla certainly has a flair for the dramatic when it comes to scoring clutch goals for the Griffins, but she's as humble as they come and will always look to celebrate with her teammates after a goal is scored.

This year, every goal she scores or every big moment she's a part in, she thinks back to her former teammates from last year and how it ended.

"I feel like we have some unfinished business, and we hope to get back to nationals again this year and battle for that national championship," she said.