Blazers Shut Down Bobcats To Win MCAC Women's Soccer Championship
Goals from Susanna Derksen and Camille Plett lifted Women's Soccer to their first MCAC Conference Championship win since 2009 on Sunday afternoon, but beating the two-time defending Champions and top-seeded Brandon Bobcats was no simple task.
After backstopping her team to a semifinal victory on Saturday over the Providence Pilots in penalty-kicks, Lydia Balsillie was at it again on Sunday showing off her ability to organize defenders, stop shots and time challenges. Selected Championship Most Valuable Player, Balsillie's first big moment to shine came in the 22nd minute. After Janelle Wride hit the Brandon crossbar moments after the kickoff and Derksen was denied by Sydney Carter-Squire, Bobcats midfielder Hosana Church sent Sarah Suchan towards goal with a bit of space and the rookie striker launched a rocket from 20-yards out that a well-positioned Balsillie was ready for and equal to.
CMU grabbed the lead just before halftime. Marijka Yaschyshyn drove a 45-yard free-kick into the Bobcat's penalty area trying to pick out the rush of Plett behind the Brandon defenders. Carter-Squire punched the loose ball onto the foot of Naomi Klassen who's shot struck a defender and rebounded to Derksen. The rookie striker made no mistake, picking the upper half of the goal and bringing the crowd at the Ralph Cantafio Soccer Complex to their feet.
Joy turned quickly to anxiety in the 68th minute. The strong-passing Bobcat's squad strung three passes together through midfield and sprung Suchan on the break. With Klassen chasing and Balsillie timing her approach, Suchan released her shot, low and to the right. Again Balsillie stretched her fingertips to the ball, deflecting the goal-bound shot off in the inside of the post and along her goal line. Klassen was relentless in her running and didn't give up on the play, beating Suchan to the loose ball and clearing the line to preserve the lead.
Plett finished the scoring in the 72nd minute. The fifth-year midfielder began by dribbling to draw a foul 30-yards from goal. Though Yaschyshyn's ensuing shot for goal beat Carter-Squire but bounced back off the crossbar, a charging Plett met it mid-flight, heading in her 15th MCAC goal of the season and insuring the Blazers win.
After 15 minutes of interceptions and clearances, the referee checked her watch, blew her whistle and brought the Championship to a close. The Blazer's bench cleared and the players and coaches sprinted towards Balsillie who met them mid-run, hands in the air.
Much has changed in MCAC Women's Soccer since CMU's last conference banner. The 2009 schedule had only two women's varsity teams; Providence and CMU. Despite losing all four of their regular season meetings that year, the Championship match would be the only one that mattered as a 1-0 win brought the trophy to the Blazers. The new MCAC Women's Soccer trophy that will make it's home at CMU this year, recognizes a trailblazer in women's soccer at the college-level in Manitoba. Melanie Layton laced her boots up for the CUSB (now USB) men's program from 1998-2001 when no university program or league existed for women in the province. Layton was a regular in Les Voyageurs starting-eleven and helped her team to three championships over four seasons.