By Thomas Becker
The UNB Reds used a powerful surge during a three-minute stretch to take down the UPEI Panthers 2-1.
Danika Lefebvre and Madison Goertz scored in the 24th and 26th minute, respectively, as the Reds (4-4-1) held on against the Panthers' (2-8) attack and eliminated them in the process.
"It feels great to get the win," said Goertz, who was named the Subway Player of the Game. "It's been a tough go with the teams that we faced and we're just trying to put the pieces together to get a good seed in the playoffs."
For Reds head coach Jon Crossland, he was just relieved to escape Charlottetown with the three points, especially against a desperate opponent fighting for their lives.
"That UPEI team improved a lot from the last time we played them. It's hard to play against a team who has everything to play for and nothing to lose."
The Panthers showed early they could compete with the playoff contender, but eventually the stronger team broke through. In the 24th minute, Goertz fired a low shot that was misplayed by goalkeeper Julie Ann Reid, as the ball passed through her hands to Danika Lefebvre for the easy tap in.
Just two minutes later, Paige Wilson headed a beautiful cross from Cierra Thomas to Goertz, who fired it past Reid to extend the lead 2-0.
As pressure was mounting late in the half, UPEI midfielder Sarah Eden sent a cross from the right side past the defence to Caitlyn McCloskey, who shot the ball off the keeper and over for her fifth goal of the season.
Knowing the home team had nothing to lose, the Reds defence buckled down in the second half and limited their opponent's chances. In a last ditch effort, the Panthers sent everyone, including the goalie, to the 18-yard box hoping to find the equalizer off a corner kick. The ball bounced several times before UNB cleared it to safety to earn the hard fought win and inch closer to a playoff berth.
"It's a good win going into Thanksgiving," Crossland said. "But we're still fighting for a playoff spot and we have to continue to be the best us."
For UPEI, the final two games will be about building toward the future and taking the positives out of the last two contests, in which they played their best soccer to date.
"We're all disappointed that we lost because this officially ends it for us, but it's about never giving up, not just physically, but mentally too, and I think we did that," said Panthers head coach Glen Miller.
UPEI won't play again until Oct. 19 when they battle the Saint Mary's Huskies.
Photo Credit: Janessa Hogan