Even before the first tear touched the frozen grass of Edmonton's Foote Stadium, it was clear. The 2001 Dinos women's soccer team lost a 3-2 thriller to the Trinity Western Spartans--the first and only upset of the Canada West playoff tournament. Defensive mishaps, miscommunications, every ball played a foot too far and every shot an inch too wide. For the Dinos, the reality of the missed opportunity hit before the first salty drop even touched the ground.
Looking back at the season, it seemed inevitable. If there is such a thing as a team of destiny, Calgary was the exact opposite. A plethora of individual accolades at season's end points to the Dinos as the most talented team in the conference. There were five all-star citations and there was the conference scoring champion and Canada West MVP playing up front. There was size, speed and even good team chemistry, the one intangible that kills many good teams before they become great. So what was missing in the Dinos, other than an elusive conference championship?
"Maybe we could have had a bit more luck," said all-star team captain Jessie Norrie about the semi-final loss to Trinity. "I thought we played well but we had a difficult finish. It's hard when you pour everything into it."
Norrie called the first half of the match "a normal Dinos game." Calgary had most of the play but gave up the first goal in the 14th minute when forward Alexis Heinz converted a penalty kick after a hard tackle in the box. Dinos rookie Jessica Horning equalized just minutes later to tie the score at 1-1.
"We had chances to put the game away," said Dinos Head Coach Robin Slot. "Looking back, Leanne [Pelosi's] header would have made the difference."
Pelosi bounced a header off the ground and over the crossbar from a mere three meters out. A day later, Sarah Dunlop's shot bounced off the crossbar and hit Pelosi's foot to go in. Calgary won the third place match 3-1 win but the talented Dinos squad didn't travel to Edmonton to play for the bronze.
"Today, we got a break," reflected Slot, after his squad beat the University of British Columbia. "But it would have been nice to get them yesterday."
The Dinos gave up their second goal to Trinity when Ashlee Davison put a shot past all-star keeper Taryn Swiatek in the 72nd minute. Calgary started to play with ever increasing desperation as the seconds ticked down on their season. Hema Chengkalath and Laura Stinson subbed in to give the Dinos more of an offensive presence and Calgary attacks came in vicious waves at the Trinity net. Chen-gkalath scored in the 84th minute, but looks of relief turned to
looks of horror when Spartans midfielder Angela Trauter put an improbable shot past Swiatek, barely grazing the inside of the post in injury time.
"We finally got two goals," mused Slot about the 3-2 loss. "But I can't even remember the last time we let in three."
After Trauter's marker Calgary had no chance to tie the game. For the second year in a row, the Dinos were knocked out in the semis in disappointing fashion.
"It's hard hearing the girls say 'let's get them next year,'" contemplated Norrie, who just played out her fifth and final year of eligibility along with Stinson and Pelosi. "It's tough when there is no next year."
"You just hope that eventually these games go our way," added Slot.
The University of Alberta Pandas became the 2001 Canada West champions with a 2-1 win over Trinity.
The girls beat the University of British Columbia 3-1 in the bronze medal match on late goals by Pelosi, Norrie and league MVP Katie Lee.
"We finally got a break," smiled Lee, who iced the game in the 89th minute. "Better late then never."
The first season of the Matt Houston fan club comes to a close. Last week, the ultra-popular Dinos midfielder accused Jessie Norrie of undressing him with her eyes. This week, her teammates came to the rescue.
"It was a collective undressing," said the lady Dinos. "And we didn't much like what we saw."