Griffins fall short of Canada West podium with tough loss to Spartans in bronze match

Suekiana Choucair battles Trinity Western's Gabriella Short for a ball on Saturday (Chris Piggott photo).
Suekiana Choucair battles Trinity Western's Gabriella Short for a ball on Saturday (Chris Piggott photo).

Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – Playing in the final game of her Canada West women's soccer career, Rachel Hutchinson went out on a high note Saturday, scoring three second-half goals to rally the Trinity Western Spartans back from a half-time deficit for a 4-1 win over the MacEwan Griffins that secured the Spartans a bronze medal.

"Honestly, it was just really good to get the win for the team," said the Cloverdale, B.C. product, who was too much for the Griffins to handle in the final 45. "We knew coming in today this wasn't the game we wanted to play in, but I'm really glad we were able to get the bronze and finish well for the seniors, including myself."

Hutchinson scored the tying goal in the 52nd minute, juking two defenders and delivered a low, hard strike inside the near post that MacEwan keeper Emily Burns got a piece of but not enough to keep it from rolling across the line.

The electric forward notched the winning goal nine minutes later when she one-timed Maddie Melnychuk's cross in and then saved her best for last on a highlight-reel 88th-minute hat trick marker, cutting in on the defence and ripping a cracker high left.

"Rachel's a special player," said TWU head coach Graham Roxburgh. "She's dangerous, she can finish and she can run at people. I thought she was awesome today."

MacEwan got on the board first on Saturday, in the 17th minute, when Suekiana Choucair played a 35-yard free kick wide to Hannah Supina, whose cross was volleyed past TWU keeper Hannah Miller by Sofia DiGiacomo. But they were unable to hang onto the lead.

"It's a tough one," said head coach Dean Cordeiro. "Tale of two halves, no question. I thought we came out strong and deserved to be up 1-0 at the half, and came ever so close to going up 2-0. Another goal was disallowed off a throw-in.

"We were in a good spot at half-time, but credit them. They were the top (regular season) team in the conference and they found another level in the second half. Rachel Hutchinson really turned things on.

"It's kind of a turning point in the match," he added. "They scored two and I think they shocked us a little bit. I don't think the scoreline is indicative of the match. At the end we started pushing and came close on a couple to close the gap. Obviously at the end, we used it as an opportunity to get everybody onto the field of play today. All our young players got in, so you start thinking about the future as well."

Salma Kamel hit the post right before Hutchinson's hat-trick goal.

Trinity Western also got a goal from Kathryn Harvey in the 74th minute when she stole a ball off of Burns and tucked it into an empty net.

It was a tough unravelling for MacEwan's normally stingy defence that gave up the second-least goals in the conference during the regular season. But the disappointment of losing a heartbreaker to Calgary on penalty kicks a day earlier weighed heavily and they just weren't themselves.

"You always want to go out with a win, but yesterday was the match we wanted to take care of business," said Cordeiro. "Today, we wanted that bronze medal, but credit Trinity, they were better than us on the day and got the job done."

Although it wasn't the colour of medal either team was looking for coming into the Canada West Final Four, the Spartans can take something away from the fact they finished strong.

"The girls are Spartans and we talked about playing for the program that has a storied history," said Roxburgh. "This group's a very special group. We had a small hiccup yesterday and played against a good team. We didn't play our best yesterday and I just asked them to come back and play. We didn't play yesterday."