Written by: John Gaudes
September 28, 2013, WINNIPEG – After their first win of the season over Winnipeg in the competitive Duckworth Challenge, the Manitoba Bisons women’s soccer team were riding high as they entered a matchup with nationally-ranked Alberta. The #3 Pandas (5-0-2) brought it to unranked Manitoba, but the Bisons (1-3-2) fought hard to earn a scoreless tie.
Outstanding again for Manitoba was keeper Chloe Werle, who at times during the game was standing on her head to keep the ball out of the net, ending up with seven saves. Aggressive play from midfielder Megan Graca and forward Laura Stewart earned the Bisons glorious chances for a goal, but ultimately came up empty.
For Alberta, it was a quiet game for an explosive and physical crew, but forward Julia Ignacio had two shots on goal to lead her team, and keeper Katie Biggs also had her share of big moments to keep the game knotted.
The first half started with an indication of how the rest of the game would go, with Alberta strongly pressuring the Bisons at the midfield, forcing physical takeaways at any opportunity. Early, they were able to turn that pressure into a few weak chances from outside the box. However, it was the one Manitoba chance at a goal that was the closest of the half, with a beautiful cross from forward Selina Speranza floating in front of the goal for Stewart, who headed it just wide.
Break-ins like that dried up for Manitoba through the rest of first half, as Werle made four solid saves in the last 25 minutes to keep the game scoreless. For Alberta, their best chance came at a bad angle – as forward Jessie Candlish took a ball from the right goal post, flipped it over Werle, and ended up with a disappointing skim off the crossbar. Both teams headed into the break scoreless.
The speed of the game picked up in the second half, with Manitoba able to start splitting possession time more evenly. Chances that were few and far between in the first half came fast and furious in the second. At the 31-minute mark, Graca, who came off the bench on Saturday, made a turn in the corner of the Regina box, then ripped a shot that just caught the fingertips of Biggs and sailed over the net.
The speed game turned into a physical, energetic one in the last 15 minutes, with both teams desperate to score the winner. Alberta’s best chance came from defender Victoria Saccomani, who took a great shot that was just grabbed by a diving Werle. The wet ball slipped from her grip, hitting the turf in a dangerous situation, but the rebound was put just wide of the post by forward Paula Dadensky.
It was Manitoba, though, who earned the last great shot at victory. With just five minutes left, a sailing free kick landed in the hands of Biggs, who was pushed back towards her own goal line. Swarmed by Bisons players, Stewart kicked it free, but Biggs re-secured the ball, holding steady under pressure.
The Bisons women’s soccer team finish their home stand weekend on Sunday, September 29th against Mount Royal. Kickoff at the University of Manitoba Turf Fields is 12:00 p.m. CST. The Alberta Pandas head across town to play the University of Winnipeg Wesmen, that kickoff is also set for 12:00 p.m. CST.