In a last-ditch effort to make the Canada West playoffs, the Bisons women’s soccer team won both of its final games of the season, beating the University of Winnipeg Wesmen 1-0 and 3-1. Unfortunately, the team’s hopes also relied on a University of Regina Cougars loss against the University of Saskatchewan Huskies on Sunday, and although the herd secured its last two wins of the season, a Cougars victory laid to rest any playoff plans.
In the first half of game one, the Bisons were relentless offensively, firing nine shots at the Wesmen net. Wesmen goalie Taryn Raabe was a brick wall, also defending five corner kicks in the first frame.
In the second half, the Bisons continued the dominant play but were visibly frustrated with their inability to score. A hit post by Tabata Bravo did not help matters.
Bianca Cavalcanti, the Bisons’ leading scorer, was checked closely by the Wesmen all game, preventing any scoring opportunities for the Brazilian national. She routinely fell to the ground, drawing boos from Wesmen fans.
In the 71st minute, the Bisons finally broke the stalemate. Bison forward Nicole Davis sent a thunderous strike from 30 yards out, firing between twodefenders and bending it past a diving Raabe.
Davis’s goal would prove to be the game winner for the herd as they maintained possession for much of the half, winning game one 1-0.
After the game, an excited Davis described her thoughts when she scored the game-winning goal.
“I was just thinking my team needs a goal, we need to go to playoffs,” said Davis.
After a hard-fought game one, Davis was already looking forward to game two.
“[We’re going to] rest and recover, get some ice baths, stretch, take it easy in practice just going over our mistakes we did in this game, watch some film and hopefully we can fix our mistakes for the next game.”
Prior to game two, the Bisons held the annual rose ceremony, where each player handed a yellow rose to the parents or guardians that helped them throughout the season.
The U of M athletic department also offered congratulations to graduating fifth-year players Brea DeBettignies, Lauren Martens and Shaylyn Dyck, who were playing in their final games as Bisons.
Following the ceremonies, the Bisons struck quickly. Two minutes in, Bravo scored her first goal of the season, putting the herd up one.
The Bisons continued to throttle the Wesmen net offensively in the first half, firing an incredible 19 shots Raabe’s way.
For Cavalcanti, Saturday’s game was beginning to look a lot like her previous meeting with the Wesmen. Holding signs that read “Fall Count,” Wesmen fans relentlessly heckled the Bison striker, who was repeatedly knocked to the ground by Wesmen players. However, in the 38th minute, Cavalcanti got her revenge by heading in a Jessica Tsai corner kick, scoring her ninth goal of the season and making it 2-0 for the Bisons. Cavalcanti celebrated with Bison fans by holding a sign above her head reading “Let’s Go Bianca” in the direction of the Wesmen supporters.
Cavalcanti’s goal proved to be the game winner for the herd. The Wesmen made it close, scoring off a penalty in the 62nd minute to bring the score within one, but Nicole Davis notched her second goal of the weekend, adding insurance to the Bisons’ lead and helping the team to a 3-1 victory.
Bravo was named player of the game for her goal and assist performance on Saturday afternoon. Bison coach Vanessa Martinez Lagunas praised Bravo for her effort in the game and for being a great teammate all season.
“Tabata scored that amazing goal very early in the game […] and it was a really important goal to really help us to just play our game and control the tempo,” said Martinez Lagunas.
“In her youth she played as a winger and as a forward, and here with our team we have made her a left fullback, so she’s changing her role to help the team where we need her the most and she has always put the team first. I’m so happy that today she was rewarded, and she could score that beautiful goal and give also a beautiful assist.”
With the win on Saturday, the Bisons moved ahead of the Cougars for second in the East division. To move on to the Canada West playoffs, the Bisons would need a Cougars loss in their match against the Huskies on Sunday.
Coach Martinez Lagunas had nothing but praise for her team and what they’ve accomplished this season.
“Regardless of what the outcome is, I’m really proud of the team,” she said.
Unfortunately for the Bisons, the Cougars mounted a second-half comeback against the Huskies, winning their Sunday match 2-1 and securing the final spot in the Canada West playoffs.