Riddle's clutch late play turns potential upset in Kamloops into 2-1 win over WolfPack

MacEwan's Kaylin Hermanutz battles against TRU on Saturday (Andrew Snucins photo/TRU Athletics)
MacEwan's Kaylin Hermanutz battles against TRU on Saturday (Andrew Snucins photo/TRU Athletics)

MacEwan Athletics and TRU Athletics

KAMLOOPS, B.C. – Head coach Dean Cordeiro might have gained a couple of grey hairs as his MacEwan Griffins women's soccer team narrowly escaped from the jaws of a big upset in their Canada West season opener on Saturday afternoon.

Fourth-year fullback Sarah Riddle, however, saved the day, factoring into two goals the Griffins scored within the final five minutes as MacEwan survived, netting a 2-1 victory over the Thompson Rivers WolfPack.

Riddle sent in a cross in the 86th minute that Meghan Oram put home for the tying goal before taking a pass from Meagan Lemoine and ripping the game-winner into the top corner in the 89th.

"Sarah took a little bit of space (after receiving the pass) and crushed it," explained Cordeiro. "What a shot. Top corner. Definitely worthy of a match winner.

"I'm so proud of Sarah. She's a fourth-year player for us and doesn't get a lot of limelight playing at the fullback position. She's always been a rock defensively, but she scored a goal and get an assist today and was our player of the game. I was so proud of her and happy for her."

That TRU somehow managed to gain a 1-0 advantage when Kelsey Thorkelsson headed home a goal against the run of play off a corner kick in the 15th minute was setting up a potential shocker in the season opener for both teams.

After all, MacEwan went to the conference final four last season, while TRU won just three games and missed the playoffs. Furthermore, a conference preseason coaches' poll pegged the Pack to finish dead last in the conference.

Throw away that paper, though, because the WolfPack, at least defensively, gave the Griffins fits. Even though MacEwan outshot them 27-11 (and 10-3 in shots on goal), TRU bent but didn't break until late.

"We knew they were going to be ready," said Cordeiro. "Plus, it's hard on the road. Good crowd out today, good energy levels. It's the first game of the season. Everyone's 0-0-0 and they've got lots to play for, so they were extremely motivated. To get that early goal, it really set the tone for them. For us, it became harder and a challenge, so we had to find different ways to be successful today."

That meant trying players at different positions and going deep into the bench to find the right combinations.

"I said to the team I've never had a game where I moved so many different players in to multiple positions, but it was just us trying to find the right makeup to get the job done," said Cordeiro. "Sure enough, what we had to conclude this match was the right makeup and we got the job done."

He also contends their fitness proved to be the difference late in the match.

"One thing we've been really working on is our fitness levels, being sure we can play at a high standard for 90 minutes," Cordeiro explained. "We knew a lot of the teams, they might struggle to do that, might start to regress in the late stages of matches. We've got to be ready to take advantage of that. It was definitely the case today."

Half-time substitute Oram was also a difference-maker for the Griffins, finishing with five shots (three on goal) and her tally, which broke the ice on the campaign.

"Meghan had two great opportunities in the first seven minutes of that half," said Cordeiro. "We told her when it does not come early you question yourself. You have to believe in your ability and execute.

"We have a lot of talent on this team. One of our goals is to be more offensive. It didn't look like it was going to happen today. You have to believe it is going to come. I am proud of Oram too for getting things going."

The Griffins now travel to Kelowna, B.C. to meet UBC-Okanagan on Sunday (2 p.m. MT, Canada West TV).

Despite some anxious moments, they're better for having gone through the experience in Kamloops.

"Credit their keeper and the way they defended, we were only able to get two today," said Cordeiro. "They made us sweat a bit, but bottom line I'm just glad we can open up the season and get the big three points to kick-start things."