The U of M Bisons women’s soccer team lost their first game of a weekend series against the University of Regina Cougars, only to rebound the next day and win the second.
The first half of game one was a physical affair. Numerous fouls were taken fighting for loose balls, including a Bianca Cavalcanti collision with Cougars goalie Allyson Ford.
There were many chances for both sides in the half. Breakaways from Cougars forward Nicole Klassen and Bison rookie Jordan Cistarelli were stymied by each team’s defenders. In the 13th minute, Bison defender Shaylyn Dyck was awarded a penalty. The fifth-year put too much power behind her kick, sending her penalty sailing over the opponent’s net, a big break for the Cougars.
In the 39th minute, the stalemate was broken as Bianca Cavalcanti finished a dangerous cross in front from Camila Goldsztein, making the game 1-0 for the Bisons.
Cavalcanti’s celebrations were cut short soon after scoring, as a Haylee Evans tackle flipped Cavalcanti in the air, sending the Brazilian national falling to the ground and crashing her neck into the turf. After lying on the field for a few minutes, Cavalcanti walked off with the help of an athletic therapist. The Bisons’ leading scorer remained on the Manitoba sideline for the rest of the game.
Cavalcanti’s absence on the field appeared to rattle the Bisons, helping the Cougars swing the momentum in their favour. The Cougars held possession in the Bisons’ end for the majority of the half, relentlessly sending balls at their net.
Although Bison goalie Karina Bagi tried her best to prevent the Cougars from tying the game, the U of R eventually found twine. Fourth- year Cougar forward Kyra Vibert broke through the Bisons’ defence and shot a ball past the left of Bagi, evening the score at 1.
The Cougars continued to amp up the offence. In the 74th minute, Cougar Sally Bachmann was stopped by Bagi on a breakaway from the top of the box. Unfortunately for the Bisons, the resulting corner kick resulted in a Sophia Stevens goal for the U of R, putting the Cougars up 2-1.
The Cougars would continue to dictate the majority of the play by putting the Bisons on the defensive, stifling any hope of a comeback and helping the Cougars walk away with the win.
The impact of losing Cavalcanti for the Bisons can be seen when looking at each team’s shots on net. After putting up ten shots in the first half, the Cougars would keep the Bisons to four in the second, compared to the Cougars’ eight.
Although Saturday afternoon’s game was an inconsistent effort, the Bisons would put on a dominant performance in game two.
Less than four minutes into the Sunday matinee, a rejuvenated Cavalcanti flew through the Cougars’ box, heading in a corner kick to put the herd up 1-0.
Cavalcanti and the Bisons did not let up, holding the Cougars in their end for the majority of the half, tiring out the U of R backline.
In the 41st minute, Bison midfielder Alexandria Paul dribbled the ball uncontested to the Regina net, firing it past Allyson Ford.
In the second half, the Bisons continued to play keep-away from the Cougars. Plugging up the midfield, the Bisons shut the Cougars out of the interior.
Playing in a much more defensive role, U of M’s Jessica Tsai and Tabata Bravo won many one-on-one battles and cleared any dangerous loose balls, helping the Bisons secure their fourth win of the season and splitting the weekend series.
Sunday’s win was integral in the herd’s pursuit of the Canada West playoffs. The U of M is one point back of the U of R for the final playoff spot in the east division.
The week prior, the Bisons helped their bid by winning both games of a weekend series against the University of Winnipeg, including a 5-1 win in the Duckworth Challenge game.
Bison forward Jenna Kunkel said she and her team were very motivated to strike quickly against their cross-town rivals. Kunkel had two goals and an assist in the game, helping her garner the title of Bison athlete of the week.
“I think we came into the game very prepared,” said Kunkel.
“We’ve been preparing all pre-season and [the University of Winnipeg] is a huge rival, so we were very, very motivated to win that game.”
“It’s a big derby, and we just came out there and […] got off to a very quick start, and we got a goal early and I think as a team we just kept fighting and we just won every ball.”
Kunkel and her Bison teammates will be looking to add a couple more wins onto their belt at home against the University of Saskatchewan Huskieson Oct. 15 and 16. The first-year forward said the wins for the Bisons will come if they continue to build on the success they’ve had this season.
“We just got to keep doing what we’re doing, the wins will come and as the season progresses, I think now that we have played a few games we will be able to wrap up the season with more wins than losses if we keep going along the path we are going,” said Kunkel.
The Bisons’ next games are Oct. 15 and 16 against the University of Saskatchewan Huskies at the West Turf Fields.