EDMONTON - The Alberta Pandas became the first team to clinch a spot in the Canada West women's soccer playoffs, doing so following a 3-0 home win over the Manitoba Bisons, Sunday afternoon at Foote Field.
The win is the seventh already for the Pandas, who continue to sit atop the Prairie division with a 7-0-1 record. The lowest the Pandas could finish is fifth in their division, with six teams qualifying for the postseason. The loss for the Bisons has potential playoff impact as well, as they fall to 2-4-2, currently maintaining their fourth place spot in the division.
Karissa McNutt recorded her fourth point of the weekend with her goal in the 13th minute, while Morgan Corbett and Anna Dunn added tallies of their own in the second half. Rebecca Reif stoppoed both Bison shots to record her fifth shutout of the season.
Following an impressive 6-1 win over Winnipeg the previous day, the Pandas carried that momentum over into Sunday's match. McNutt opened the scoring early in the first half, beating Madison Wilford with a fantastic curling shot into the top half of the Manitoba net.
Alberta maintained a vast majority of possession during the match, firing another eight shots towards the Bison net in the first half. Wilford, however, made a pair of saves to close out the half, holding the Pandas lead to just one.
More Alberta ball movement and possession wore the Bisons down in the second half, as they were able to add to their lead in the 77th minute. Corbett beautify headed in the Brenna Mattiello corner kick, as her fourth of the season doubled the Pandas lead. Dunn sealed the win for the Pandas just six minutes later, converting from the penalty spot, which was also her fourth goal this season.
Reif made both of her saves in the second half, but neither challenged the veteran Alberta keeper. With five clean sheets, Reif trails only Calgary's Lauren Houghton (6) for the conference lead.
The Pandas will aim to keep their undefeated season going next weekend, as they face the Mount Royal Cougars in a home-and-home series.Following three-straight losses, the Bisons will also get a home-and-home series next weekend against the Winnipeg Wesmen.