The Manitoba Bisons women’s soccer team is set to kick off their 2015-16 season to the right tempo following a victory in their final preseason match, hosting Minnesota-Crookston on Friday night. A 1-0 score was enough to clinch their third win in five friendly games, before entering the competitive season next week at home against Thompson Rivers.
In a thrilling match which saw the Bisons out-compete the Golden Eagles in the final third, Alyssa Robinson scored the lone goal with a scintillating strike from long range.
Manitoba looked to be the livelier side right from the get-go, attacking early and often. Striker Bruna Mavignier already created two chances within the first five minutes, which included a spectacular acrobatic effort that sailed just over the bar.
Golden Eagles goalkeeper Lexie Gauger was forced into action midway through the first half when a deflected cross from the left flank fell for Selina Speranza inside the box. Gauger smartly smothered the chance to keep the Bisons at bay.
At 35 minutes, the home side drew first blood. From 25 yards out, Robinson unleashed a cracking shot that caught the crossbar and post before nestling over the line. The goal marked a true touch of genius, and Mavignier was quick to express her delight about the midfielder.
“It was so amazing, it was a really beautiful goal. I’m so proud of her. I hope she can score more goals during the season,” said the Brazilian in a post-match interview.
Moments after going up 1-0, Mavignier won a free kick in a promising position. The Bisons attempted to replicate Notts County’s famous deceptive free kick goal against Arsenal Ladies, which featured a fake argument before a player hit the dead-ball on target.
On this occasion, Manitoba nearly executed the plan to perfection. Megan Graca took the run-up, while Amanda Wong curled a dead ball just wide of the far post.
Having the confidence of planning a seemingly unachievable set piece shows the Bisons’ freedom in the game. In the bigger picture, it emphasizes the philosophy of coach Vanessa Martinez-Lagunas.
“We need to enjoy each single game. Enjoy the game, play free and play like we play usually. That is what I want to see during the games,” said the third year bench boss.
The Bisons continued to press for a second goal before halftime, coming closest at 42 minutes. Mavignier provided a ball for Alanna Shaw, who forced a decent save out of Gauger inside the area. On the ensuing corner kick, Mavignier had a goal-bound header cleared off the line.
Martinez-Lagunas introduced her third goalkeeper of the match after halftime. Calgary native Brittany MacSween was tested within minutes of coming on, quickly smothering a partial breakaway. Just seconds later, the Bisons ran into some injury trouble when defender Kailyn Balfour was forced to come off. The freshman injured her left knee after colliding with an Eagles player.
Late in the match, the Golden Eagles gained momentum and began to exploit the flanks through winger Delaney McIntyre. The Manitoba native gave the Bisons back-line some concern with her long bursts of speed, yet generated few chances.
The Bisons nearly clinched an insurance goal within the final few minutes.
First, they slammed the crossbar after a barrage of desperate attempts. Mavignier then twinkled around three defenders and forced a timely save out of Golden Eagles substitute goalkeeper Olivia Mecham on Manitoba’s final attack.
In the end, 1-0 was enough for the Bisons to hang on to a deserved victory. If Robinson’s wonder-strike is any indication of what is to come, then this group of talent will be a very lethal team in the CIS.
The regular season kicks off next week, on Sept. 4 when the University of Manitoba hosts the Thompson Rivers Wolfpack.