The best of Bisons soccer

Counting down the top 10 moments & stories of Manitoba’s 2015-16 soccer season

Selina Speranza. Photo by Tara Miller.

The 2015 women’s soccer season was quite memorable. Below are the Manitoban’s top 10 stories and moments from the pitch.

10. Lord of the wings
Eighteen minutes into the regular season, winger Selina Speranza opened the Bisons’ account for 2015-16. Striker Bruna Mavignier played in the winger, who rounded the keeper and broke through for goal number one on the year.

During the final weekend ahead of the post-season, Speranza struck twice in two matches to close out the season in style. Her lone goal in the 2-1 loss at home to Saskatchewan marked her fifth goal of the CIS season.

9. Mavignier magic
Even though Bruna Mavignier’s season was cut short due to injury, she still did nothing less than replicate her lethality in front of the goalmouth. The Brazilian scored six goals in six games, including a brace in the season opener against Thompson Rivers.

Her final appearance of 2015-16 was perhaps her best performance, netting another brace in a comeback effort at Mount Royal.

Mavignier’s limited appearances had a tremendous effect on the Bisons, who won three matches, drew twice and lost once when she was selected to start. Last season, she impressed with eight goals in twelve appearances and now has fourteen goals to her credit in just 18 CIS career matches.

8. Comeback keeper
Chloe Werle overcame one of the biggest battles of her career when she started the first match of the 2015 CIS season against Thompson Rivers. With a back fracture that jeopardized her future in soccer, the goalkeeper and captain put her entire 2014-15 season into recovery mode and ultimately succeeded.

She made a total of six appearances this year and although Werle was later dislodged by Madison Wilford as the number-one goalkeeper, it is miraculous that she was able to reinvigorate her CIS career when it appeared to be over.

7. Into the playoffs
For the first time since 2012-13 season, Manitoba qualified for the Canada West playoffs. Last season, the Bisons’ 4-4-4 record kept them alive in the playoff race ahead of the final weekend, but two straight draws against Lethbridge to close out their season saw them crash out of the playoff picture.

Much of their qualification this season can be attributed to performances in which the Bisons scraped out a point in matches which they have trailed. The post-season came a bit earlier for 2015-16, as Manitoba attained a twelve-point league cushion for the final playoff position.

Unfortunately, the herd’s 2-0 loss to MacEwan last week ended the Bisons’ run in the playoffs at the quarterfinal stage.

6. The swan song
For four Bisons, the 2015-16 season marked the final season of their CIS careers. The graduating class includes goalkeeper Chloe Werle, midfielders Alyssa Robinson and Megan Graca, and defender Elyce Molyneaux.

Aside from finishing off her last CIS season with a comeback from injury, Werle nearly clinched the icing on the cake when she just about scored a goal against Calgary. The product of Winnipeg Soccer Academy launched a long ball that caught her opposite number off her line and was inches from going in.

Robinson served as a vice-captain in her final year, in place of Werle and the injured Amanda Wong. Her two goals during the season were scored in the same weekend, a 3-2 loss to Saskatchewan and 2-1 win at Regina, respectively.

A playmaker in centre midfield, Graca scored two goals while leading the Bisons with six assists in her final season. She scored the lone goal during the Duckworth Challenge which Manitoba won 1-0, and scored again during a comeback effort against MacEwan in the regular season.

“I wish I would have known how quickly the five years goes before I started. Every game played has been such an amazing experience,” said Graca when reflecting on her CIS career.

Molyneaux bowed out of the CIS with one last hurrah when she was named player of the match in the 2-0 defeat to MacEwan. The left-back for the Bisons scored one goal in the season, during Manitoba’s 3-0 win against Lethbridge.

5. Rookie of the Year?
It is rather impressive when a goalkeeper concedes only two goals in her first six performances of the season. It is even more impressive when she can go almost 300 minutes unbeaten for part of the season. Yet, when that goalkeeper is only a CIS rookie, it’s time to take notice.

Bisons keeper Madison Wilford won starting duties over captain Chloe Werle this season and has not relinquished the position ever since. In a four-match span beginning Sept. 27, she failed to concede a goal in over 280 minutes of play.

By the end of the season, Wilford had firmly secured her spot in the pecking order and started Manitoba’s first post-season match since 2013.

“It’s been so much fun playing alongside these talented girls and I’m very grateful for the opportunity to support them in goal,” said Wilford on her freshman experience.

4. That goal
It could have been the Bisons’ goal of the season, but it wasn’t even the season yet.

Alyssa Robinson’s wonder-strike against Minnesota-Crookston clinched a 1-0 pre-season victory back on Aug. 28. Even the likes of Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo would have been proud of that one.

From outside the area, Robinson hammered a belter with her left foot, clattering the crossbar and post before crossing the line. The left-sided midfielder managed two goals during the competitive season, yet her pre-season stunner easily tops the bunch.

3. The derby
Manitoba’s derby match against Winnipeg at Investors Group Field marked the first CIS match that was held in an ex-World Cup venue. The Bisons rose to the grand occasion, producing a 2-0 victory over their cross-town rivals.

Midfielders Chelsea Dubiel and Sara Schur potted goals on either side of halftime to send Manitoba home happy. The match was played in front 778 people.

2. Psych-out free kicks
Coach Vanessa Martinez-Lagunas was surely captivated by Ellen White’s free kick goal for Notts County – the club which is also represented by former Bison Desiree Scott.

“I do follow Desiree’s team a little bit and I saw that free kick, so I brought it to the team,” said Martinez-Lagunas. “It’s going to work one day.”

The plan features a fake argument between three players as the run-up is taken and a sneaky layoff to catch the opposition off guard.

While it contributed to a spectacular goal for Notts County in the FA Women’s Super League, the planning and practice have not paid off for the Bisons yet.

1. Comebacks galore!
A three-month CIS soccer season makes for the realization that there are not that many points to lose. Despite conceding the first goal in six matches this season, the Bisons produced spectacular comebacks on three occasions. The result was a win and two draws, adding five points to their season total when trailing.

The cornerstone for their comeback spirit was striker Alanna Shaw. The spirited freshman equalized in a 1-1 draw against UBC-Okanagan, then scored and assisted in a spectacular 2-2 draw against MacEwan after trailing 2-0. Bruna Mavignier contributed to the other performance, a brace which saw the Bisons dish out a 2-1 victory over Mount Royal.