REGINA, Sask. – For the first time in program history, the University of Regina’s women’s soccer team will head to the Canada West Final Four after recording a 2-1 win over Saskatchewan on Sunday afternoon at the U of R Field in a quarterfinal match that needed to go to penalty kicks to decide a winner.
The Cougars got goals from Kayla McDonald, Adriana McCullough, and Molly Glass in the shootout and keeper Stephanie Possberg sealed the victory with a diving stop on Saskatchewan’s Jenna Newton in the fourth round.
Meagan Cormier (Regina) and Leanne Mylymok (Saskatchewan) scored in regulation, with Mylymok’s goal coming late in second-half injury time to force extra time.
“It’s a great day for the players and a great day for the program,” Cougars head coach Bob Maltman said following the victory. “It was fantastic competition as we expected and hats off to both teams for a great match. We certainly know we’ve got lots of work ahead of us, but we look forward to having the opportunity to represent the school at the Final Four.”
Despite a game-time temperature of -1 C but a strong southeast wind that lowered the wind chill to the negative double digits, a huge crowd of over 500 people attended the contest.
With the wind at the Cougars’ backs for the first half, the crowd got a chance to cheer early on. In the 19th minute, Cormier took the ball about 20 yards out, dribbled between two Saskatchewan defenders and uncorked a shot to the left corner of the net to give the home side a 1-0 lead. Cormier had a chance to extend the lead 37 minutes in, but her shot from the left side of the box sailed just over the net.
Enjoying the wind at their backs after halftime, Saskatchewan had two great chances stymied by Possberg in the early stages of the second half. Possberg dove to her right to deflect a low Nicholle Morrison shot from about 25 yards out in the 53rd minute, and shortly thereafter she made her best stop of the match on a Daniela Fuenzalida shot that was labelled for the right corner.
Cormier was injured in the 61st minute after a collision with Saskatchewan keeper Marissa Struik, but returned to the field five minutes later. She had another opportunity to put the Cougars up by two in the 83rd minute after a solo rush down the right wing, but her shot missed to the right.
The referee gave four minutes of extra time at the end of the second half, and at the tail end of it Saskatchewan broke through. Pushed up with the Huskies pressing for the equalizer, Saskatchewan defender Meagan Manson sent in a nice cross from the right wing that was tipped by Erica Parenteau right to Mylymok at the top of the box, who found the back of the net to knot the game at one apiece.
Regina had the best chance in the two 15-minute extra times. In the 102nd minute, Kelsey Abstreiter boomed a long free kick that hit the cross bar. The rebound was headed in by Cormier, but the goal was negated by an obvious offside on the play.
Possberg made one additional save in extra time, stopping a medium-range effort from Fuenzalida in the 109th minute.
In the shootout, both teams opened the first round with failed attempts. Adrianna Bonutti’s low shot was stopped by Struik, while Morrison’s shot hit the left post and stayed out. McDonald scored the first of the shootout with a shot to the top left corner, and a Possberg save on Erica Hindmarsh gave the Cougars a 1-0 advantage through two rounds.
Both teams scored in the third round, as McCullough scored what would turn out to be the game-winning attempt for the Cougars and Mylymok found the back of the net for Saskatchewan.
Glass scored in the fourth round of the shootout for the Cougars, giving Possberg the opportunity to win the match for the Cougars with a stop. Possberg did just that, diving to her right to stop the shot by Newton and pave the way for a field rush by the Cougar faithful.
The win was a historic one for the Cougars. Not only do they advance to the Canada West Final Four for the first time in history, but the victory is also the University of Regina’s first postseason win since the program was started in 2001.
The No. 4-seeded Cougars will now prepare to face top-seeded Trinity Western next weekend in a conference semifinal match in Langley, B.C. The winner of that will advance to the conference championship against the UBC/Victoria winner.
The Canada West champion will also advance to the 2012 CIS Championship, which will be hosted by the University of Victoria from Nov. 8 to Nov. 11.