It was like something out of a movie.
In late November, the MacEwan University Griffins women's soccer team took the U SPORTS national championship title after defeating Trinity Western University. It's the first championship the university has won since joining U SPORTS in 2014.
"It was truly a dream season, coming off COVID, there were lots of unknowns, and we were just so grateful to be able to be back on the pitch together as a team, as a family," said Griffins' head coach, Dean Cordeiro.
According to Cordeiro, getting the team to gel initially was a bit of a challenge. After missing the 2020 season, players were at different fitness levels than others, and team members from out of province were dealing with different sets of restrictions affecting their ability to play.
Additionally, senior players who missed out on last year's season were able to come back for the 2021 season, leaving the Griffins with a large talent pool of new and returning players.
Once everyone was on the same page, the Griffins only got stronger as the season went on.
During the championship game in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, goals were traded throughout regulation time. Kathryn Harvey from Trinity Western opened the scoring at 15:15, followed by a goal from the Griffins' Reaghan McCarthy. Salma Kamel scored at 45 minutes to give MacEwan the lead; however, Trinity western tied the game at 62:03.
The game went into overtime, and at the 118th minute, a scary scene unfolded on the field involving Griffins' goalkeeper Breanna Truscott.
"One of their attacking players goes up for a ball with our goalkeeper, and there's a big collision, and our goalkeeper, unfortunately, is knocked unconscious," described Cordeiro.
"I've never experienced anything like that, you know, our team crying for their fellow sister. And how can we keep playing? How can we move on and see Breanna Truscott get carted off the pitch in an ambulance?"
After discussing, the team agreed that Breanna would have wanted to see them finish the job. Bianca Castillo, the starting goalkeeper at the beginning of the season, stepped into the net before the game went into penalty kicks.
MacEwan went up to kick first and missed. Trinity Western then scored. Next was the Griffins' Erin Van Dolder, who scored, and got the momentum going.
"Then, their player went up, and that's when we sway momentum again; Bianca makes a crazy save and gets us going,"
Next to shoot was Fort Saskatchewan's Hannah Supina, also known as "Hammer." Supina makes a play and scored on the net for the Griffins. Trinity Western's turn to shoot was next, to no avail.
Supina said when it was her turn to shoot, she couldn't think about anything else but getting the ball in the net. The 21-year-old was born and raised in Fort Saskatchewan and began playing soccer at about six-years-old.
"I was just like, this needs to go in the net, and I need to do this for my teammates. I remember going up to the ball and being like there's no other option, it needs to go in the net," she said.
Grace Mwasalla finished the job with a shootout goal against Trinity Western, who could not respond, resulting in a 3-2 victory for the MacEwan University Griffins.
"You couldn't have written a better storybook ending, and unless you were there, it would be very hard to believe with what happened in extra time with the injury," Cordeiro continued.
After the celebrations on the field, the team brought the party to the hospital, where Breanna was conscious and doing well.
Cordeiro concluded by saying he's incredibly proud of the group and takes pride in the fact that MacEwan has only been in U SPORTS for seven years, six minus last year, and was able to take the championship title.
A few other local players were part of the Griffins championship team, Alyx Henderson, Jayda Mitchell and Avery Brisebois, all from Sherwood Park.