Under the lights on a pair of cool September nights the U of M Bisons women’s soccer team kicked off the 2019 Canada West soccer season with a split against a pair of Saskatchewan-based opponents.
The 2019 season got off to a less than stellar start Friday, as the Bisons fell 2-1 to the visiting University of Saskatchewan Huskies thanks to a pair of second-half mistakes.
Manitoba was dominant in the first half, but was unable to capitalize on the chances coming its way, something Bisons head coach Vanessa Martinez Lagunas noted her club needs to fix moving forward.
Saskatchewan, meanwhile, turned Manitoba mistakes into goals to snag the win on Bisons turf.
“It’s just keeping that concentration and avoiding mistakes, that’s how you win games,” Martinez Lagunas said.
“The team that wins is the one that capitalizes on the mistakes of the other team, and we made the mistakes and they used them. So we need to learn from it, and the thing that I can take from the game is the first half was amazing.”
Game one of the weekend was all Manitoba early on.
The Bisons pushed the visiting Huskies with speed, stifling clearing attempts while driving the ball toward the Saskatchewan goal.
Bisons midfielder Nicole Davis showed her speed early and often, keeping the Huskies defenders on their heels.
While at the other end, Saskatchewan keeper Jayden Steinhauer kept her side alive and the herd at bay until the 35th minute.
Steinhauer made an initial save but the ball glanced off her and down to the line.
Hailey Lavarias battled for position and knocked the ball into the back of the net for a 1-0 Bisons lead.
Davis tore down the field on the next Bisons possession, only to have the chance ended by an offside call.
“She’s always a threat,” Martinez Lagunas said.
“Teams know that she’s always a threat and of course they’re always very careful with her.”
Saskatchewan came out in force to start the second half and took advantage of a Bisons error to pull even.
A misplay by Karina Bagi in the Manitoba goal sent the ball back into open space with Huskies charging. Halle Krynowsky snagged the loose ball and hammered it in to knot the score 1-1 in the 48th minute.
Soon after, Davis again used her speed on the attack, but her shot was turned aside easily by Steinhauer to keep the game tied.
The sides traded chances until the 80th minute, when Maya Gabruch bent twine for the 2-1 Saskatchewan lead, and despite a late Bisons charge the score held for the Huskies win.
“The two chances [Saskatchewan] had, they used them,” Martinez Lagunas said post-game.
“I think we also gave them the chances because they were errors — defensive errors on our side […] I think we were a bit too hectic in the second half, controlling [the ball] and clearing it.”
The air may have been chilly, but the temperature on the pitch was red hot Saturday as the Bisons topped the University of Regina Cougars 3-0 in a physical affair.
Coaches hollered, players jostled and a controversial no-call gave Manitoba all it needed to come away with the win.
“We wanted to set the tempo from the beginning, the physicality,” Martinez Lagunas said post-game.
“Show them we wanted to win the game today and just bounce back stronger […] but I think the girls showed great character today.”
The Bisons almost found twine early as Rebecca Waterman broke free along the right sideline and sent a cross in front to Celeste Gallego. While Regina defenders closed to protect keeper Kylie Bolton, Gallego lost the ball in her feet and could not get the shot away.
In the 27th minute, Gallego found her redemption.
She fought in close, picked up a loose ball and tapped it home for the 1-0 Bisons lead.
Before the first half was out, the Bisons again found the back of the net.
A cross by Mackie Burdeny sailed in front to a waiting Jessica Tsai, who got her head on the ball, redirecting it toward the Regina goal.
The Tsai header went post and in to give Manitoba a 2-0 lead heading into halftime.
“That’s amazing because you don’t see those types of headers in the women’s game very often,” Martinez Lagunas said.
Manitoba extended its lead early in the second half, but not without controversy.
Stefanie Young broke free from coverage and took Regina defender Lauren Petras down hard as she charged into the Cougars crease.
Despite the Regina side hollering for a call, Young was able to sneak the ball by to make it 3-0 Manitoba.
Regina’s protests earned Bolton a red card and the Bisons goal stood.
From there the Bisons locked the game down and earned the weekend split with a 3-0 win over Regina.
The Bisons head to the west coast next weekend for a pair of games. Manitoba will be in Abbotsford, B.C., Sept. 13 to play the University of the Fraser Valley Cascades at 7:30 p.m. CDT, and in Langley, B.C., Sept. 14 to play the Trinity Western University Spartans at 7 p.m. CDT.