Griffins embracing cold weather, leaning on experience for Canada West QF match vs. Victoria

Alyx Henderson and the Griffins played to a 1-1 draw with Victoria on Sept. 17 at Clarke Stadium. The teams will meet in a Canada West quarter-final match on Saturday at Clareview Field, 12 p.m. (Joel Kingston photo).
Alyx Henderson and the Griffins played to a 1-1 draw with Victoria on Sept. 17 at Clarke Stadium. The teams will meet in a Canada West quarter-final match on Saturday at Clareview Field, 12 p.m. (Joel Kingston photo).

Jefferson Hagen
MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – The experience they have on their side figures to serve the Griffins women's soccer team well as they prepare for their first post-season game since winning the U SPORTS national championship in 2021.

MacEwan still has 16 players remaining from the team that captured hearts and a massive trophy after beating Trinity Western in a shootout on a crisp Cape Breton night.

But this is a new group now with a mix of emerging talents, seasoned veterans and rookies trying to write their own story.

The 2023 Griffins topped the Canada West Prairie Division with a 10-2-2 record and earned a bye past the Play-In round, straight to Saturday's quarter-final, when they will host the Victoria Vikes (8-4-2) at 12 p.m., Clareview Field (Canada West TV).


"It was nice to have the bye weekend," said Griffins head coach Dean Cordeiro. "It gave us some time to get some things in place.

"Now that we know our opponent, their victory in a shootout on Saturday gave us some time to now set our focus and attention on them."

Victoria survived a Play-In battle against UFV that was scoreless after regulation, 1-1 after overtime and went to the Vikes 3-1 in the shootout.

While there's no doubt Victoria will come to Edmonton a bit battle-tested after emerging from such an affair, the Griffins bring the rare seasoning of several veteran starters going all the way two years ago.

It's that experience captain Hannah Supina and fellow defender Abbey Wright plan to impart to the younger members of the squad.

"We've been through this before," said Supina in a group interview with Wright. "I think Abbey and I know the mental prep and what it takes to calm those nerves and get the job done, so we can definitely lean on our past experience as seniors.

"It's about getting the other girls in that same mindset – just calming the nerves and getting the team focused and ready."

All they've been doing since wrapping up the regular season with a win over Lethbridge on Oct. 15 is practising and recuperating.

"It's not always an opportunity where you get rest at the end of a season, so I think it really helped us rest and refocus and get ready to put all our effort into Victoria this weekend," said Wright of the bye week.

They have plausible game tape to digest as Victoria visited the Griffins on Sept. 17 and the teams played to a 1-1 tie. Although the Griffins scored first and were the dominant side, outshooting the Vikes 14-3 (10-2 on goal), they didn't get the win.

But it's given them a chance to review what they can do better.

"I think we've got to be more clinical," said Cordeiro. "I really liked our first half, everything but our execution. We outshot them 10-0 in that first half, but we didn't capitalize on any of our chances.

"We took the lead, but we made a little bit of a mental error. We gave them a goal on a silly mistake, and it was a fight to the end. It ended up being 1-1. UVic's a very good team. If we don't capitalize on our chances and let them hang around, it will be a fight to the end. Our focus is definitely on getting off to a strong start and making the most of our opportunities."

With the temperature set to be hovering just above freezing on Saturday, the Griffins have embraced the cold weather of late as preparation for what game day will bring.

"We were thrown a curveball with this snow, but it's that time of year," said Cordeiro. "It's nice that we get a week of prep in these cooler conditions, so we're not thrown off come Saturday.

"Everything's been going really well. We're excited, we're counting down the days and we're ready to go."

FREE KICKS … Saturday's match will be the third time MacEwan and Victoria have met in the Canada West post-season, with each team winning once … Their last playoff meeting came in a 2019 quarter-final at Clarke Stadium, won 1-0 by the Griffins … The winner of Saturday's match advances to the Canada West Final Four on the Nov. 3-4 weekend where they will meet the winner of Trinity Western and Calgary in a semifinal match at the home of the highest-remaining Pacific Division seed … To qualify for the U SPORTS national championship in Kingston, Ont. Nov. 9-12, the Griffins need to make it to the Canada West final as only two teams from the conference qualify.