Jefferson Hagen / MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – Capitalizing on a free kick off a controversial call in the 37th minute, the visiting University of Fraser Valley Cascades stunned the previously undefeated MacEwan University Griffins 1-0 in Canada West women's soccer action Friday afternoon.
After it appeared MacEwan goalkeeper Emily Burns was interfered with in diving to make a save, she argued the lack of a foul with head official Luis Dominguez and inadvertently stepped out of the box with the ball in her hands.
Dominguez whistled her for a foul instead, giving UFV a free kick from the top of the box. Simi Lehal stepped into one, drilling it perfectly over the wall and bar down to score the only goal of the game.
"It was disappointing to drop full points today on a play that was really out of our control," said Griffins head coach Dean Cordeiro, who was incensed on the sidelines after the call. "That should have been a positive outcome for us because it was a foul on the keeper and they let possession go on.
"I think frustrations on our players' ends were boiling over because of the foul count – (UFV had 16 fouls to MacEwan's six in the game). They were going late and Meagan Lemoine had to leave the game due to a foul. That's disappointing and then somehow that turns into a free kick for them and a goal against and it holds up as the game-winner."
Official Luis Dominguez assesses a penalty on MacEwan keeper Emily Burns on Friday (Chris Piggott photo).
Things started off on the wrong foot for the Griffins when star striker Lemoine, who is tied for third in Canada West in points, bonked heads on an aerial challenge with a UFV defender and left the game with an injury in the ninth minute.
Her loss to the offence can't be understated. But, even still, MacEwan carried the majority of the play throughout the contest – outshooting UFV 19-7 (and 6-2 in shots on goal).
However, while UFV did little offensively during the contest, their defensive back line was a brick wall. Cascades goalkeeper Emily Harold made six saves – none of them overly difficult – in posting the shutout.
For the usually stingy Griffins – who thrive from solid back-line play – it was like looking at a mirror image of themselves.
"Utmost respect for MacEwan," said Fraser Valley head coach Rob Giesbrecht. "Dean does a great job with them. We knew we had to be organized.
"Soccer's a game that you can surrender position of the ball, but it's really about limiting the chances your opponent gets. As much possession as they had and territory – they were in our end more than we were in their end – they didn't generate a ton of chances," he added. "I'm proud of how we defended.
"They stuck to the task and opportunity presented itself on a free kick. Simi Lehal was a beast for us today. She's a fantastic player and we're looking forward to seeing this continue for her."
The University of Fraser Valley Cascades celebrate Simi Lehal's game-winning goal on Friday (Chris Piggott photo).
MacEwan's best chances to tie the contest came in the second half.
Finally, in an extra-time flurry, Brittany Costa's header off a corner kick went high.
"We were quite happy with our performance in the second half," said Cordeiro. "All credit to Fraser Valley, they defended really well today. Rob their coach is a fantastic coach, had them well organized, so it was tough to penetrate the back line.
"But we've got to find a way to be creative and find solutions – get more balls in the area that can hit target areas that we can look to exploit."
MacEwan (4-1-0) will have a day to regroup before hosting Trinity Western (2-2-0) on Sunday (Noon, Jasper Place Bowl).
UFV (2-2-1) next heads to Prince George-based UNBC (2-2-0) on Sunday.