Former Blazer Bounces CMU In First-Ever Indoor Regular Season Match
Kezia Balzer's goal in the 71st minute gave the Red River Rebels a 1-0 victory over CMU on Saturday afternoon in the MCAC's first-ever regular season women's soccer match played indoor at Winnipeg's Soccer North Facility in Seven Oaks.
A former Blazer, Balzer played a big part in winning the MCAC Women's Soccer Championship for CMU in 2018, the first trophy win for the program since 2009. Used mostly as a defender with the Blazers, the RRC nursing student has been asked to play a more offensive role with her new team and has been effective doing it; producing 4 goals through 8 matches including Saturday's game-winner. Balzer sits second in the MCAC women's soccer goal-scoring race, one behind conference-leader Makayla Myer of the Providence Pilots who has netted 5.
The three best chances of the opening 30 minutes of Saturday's match belonged to the home team but despite their efforts, the Blazers were unable to get on the scoreboard first. In the 23rd minute, Elizabeth Andrews forced a stumble in possession by a Rebel's defender allow the third-year midfielder to press in on the Red River goal. Andrews dribbled around Rebel's goalkeeper Abigail Wilson at the edge of the 18 yard box only to be caught by a recovering defender who stripped Andrews of control moments before she would have given her team the lead.
Moments later Miriam Kabonesa would test Wilson from distance but the pressing defender's shot was easily handled and held onto by the Rebels' goalkeeper in the 25th minute. On 30 minutes, Kabonesa dribbled into the attacking third of the field, and through the feet of Ezri Trump released teammate Kylie Karr who powered through midfield and tried her luck from 25 yards out. With plenty of power and punch to beat Wilson and put the Blazers in the lead, Karr's rocket-shot lacked direction and was easily caught and controlled by the Rebels' goalkeeper, hitting her gloves mid-height.
0-0 at the half, there was plenty of optimism for CMU who carried the majority of possession, shots and chances in the opening 45 minutes of play. On the defensive side, Kabonesa along with defenders Tiegan Kroeker, Melissa Gilbert and Hannah Neufeldt seemed very much in control of the Rebels' attacking chances, while CMU goalkeeper Lydia Balsillie kept things tidy at the back with most of her touches coming from her feet as the veteran was able to stay involved in her team's possession and also start the Blazers' attacks through her accurately-played, roof-scraping, goal kicks.
Red River would get their break in the 71st minute. After Shea Bresciani broke up a CMU attack she released a long pass played behind the CMU defenders towards the corner flag that chased down by Balzer, an ever-willing runner on the counter attack. From a near impossible angle at goal, Balzer's shot alluded a fully-stretched Balsillie, tipping off her fingertips but carrying enough power to reach the upper corner of the CMU goal. 1-0 Rebels with 19 minutes left to play.
The Blazers kept on the front foot determined to get an equalizer before the full-time whistle. Unfortunately it was central defenders Kroeker and Kabonesa that would come closest for the home team, both attempting shots from distances that did not trouble Wilson. In the 77th minute, Kroeker showed her dribbling determination, progressing from a defensive position, through midfield but her shot from 25 yards was directly at the Rebels goalkeeper. In the 86th minute, Kabonesa ran at Red River, producing an almost carbon copy scoring chance to Kroeker's, a long shot easily handled.
Though the match stands as a second-consecutive without a goal scored for the Blazers, the team still holds on to hope at qualifying for the 2019 MCAC women's soccer playoffs. On 4 points, CMU leads the Brandon Bobcats and ACC Cougars in the chase for the final playoff position. The two western Manitoba programs were schedued to lock horns on Saturday as well, but had their match postponed due to unplayable field conditions. The MCAC has yet to announce when and how these lost matches will be recovered in the schedule.
CMU travels to Brandon on Saturday in a match that likely will determine fourth-place before returning home on Sunday to end their regular season at the Ralph Cantafio Soccer Complex against the conference-leading USB Rouges.