Mwasalla nets fifth GWG of the season as Griffins' strong D holds off Dinos 1-0 to remain unbeaten

Grace Mwasalla points to teammate Hannah Supina after putting home her pass in the 40th minute on Sunday (Joel Kingston photo).
Grace Mwasalla points to teammate Hannah Supina after putting home her pass in the 40th minute on Sunday (Joel Kingston photo).

Jefferson Hagen
MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – Strong defensive play helped a highlight-reel first-half goal by Grace Mwasalla stand up as the difference for MacEwan in a 1-0 win over Calgary Sunday that was exactly the intense matchup you'd expect between two of the three remaining undefeated teams in the Canada West women's soccer ranks.

Only two remain now with MacEwan moving to 6-0-0, ahead of UBC (4-0-0), while Calgary falls to 4-1-0.

"These victories are important in front of our amazing support and fans," said MacEwan head coach Dean Cordeiro. "We wanted to get the job done today. It's a big victory for sure and we're going to enjoy it temporarily before we reset and refocus for a couple tough tests next weekend."

Mwasalla netted her fifth game-winning goal of the season and broke the program's career GWG record with the ninth of her career when she scored the lone goal of the contest in the 40th minute. Hannah Supina lobbed in a perfect high looping ball that Mwasalla corralled in the air and flicked past goalkeeper Katie French, drawing exultations from the crowd.

Mwasalla later missed the net on a penalty kick in the 77th minute that would have been a nice capper and insurance marker, but Cordeiro put it in perspective for her after the game.

"Next level," he said. "Another game winner. That's five in six games. What a big-time player. I know she'll be disappointed about the PK, but it wasn't needed today, that's what I told her. She scored the big goal. That's what we needed."

The win and shutout go to rookie goalkeeper Sabrina Alexander, who made five saves for her sixth victory of the season, surpassing the single season program record for most wins by a rookie keeper, set by Emily Burns in 2015.

"She's cool, calm, collected with sure hands and great distribution – made a couple big saves when needed," said Cordeiro, who named Alexander his team's MVP in the contest. "Nothing but great things to say about our back line, along with Amelia Russo at holding mid. They were all just rock stars for us back there doing what was needed."

Sabrina Alexander made five saves for her sixth win of the season, breaking the program single season rookie record set by Emily Burns in 2016 (Joel Kingston photo).

Alexander's best save came in the 71st minute when Dinos leading goal scorer Ella Djuranic found daylight on the end of a through ball, but the rookie keeper charged out to cut the angle and parried a hard shot to the corner.

"Honestly, it was just instinct," said Alexander. "I was just looking at the clock, hoping it would die out and that ball came through and it was 'just go.' I didn't really think twice about it."

She made another huge save in extra time off a point-blank shot by Isabella DiPalma and got some help from veteran centre-back Abbey Wright, who denied Erica Mysko's rebound attempt on the line.

"I love Abbey," said Alexander. "She's definitely been guiding me through the season. She's just a solid player and I can't thank her enough for that goal-line clearance."

Sabrina Alexander's post-game interview.

Calgary earned 10 of their 12 corner kicks on the day in the second half when they pressed hard for the equalizer, outshooting the Griffins 14-5 in the final 45 minutes and 18-12 on the afternoon (6-4 on goal). But MacEwan's strong back line of Wright, Supina, Anneke Odinga and Ella Fownes kept them at bay.

"We had to win a different way today," said Cordeiro. "We bent but didn't break. I loved our first half. I thought we really put it on them. We went up 1-nil. We had a couple other glorious chances but didn't put them away. That's what happens when you let a team hang around. 

"We're talking about one of the best teams, not only in Canada West but in all of U SPORTS as well. We knew they were going to be up to the challenge. But we found a way to get it done. It would have been nice to get that insurance marker. It wasn't meant to be. But it's a great sign to get a clean sheet."

The Griffins will next host Mount Royal University on Sept. 16 (2:30 p.m., Clarke Stadium).