The finish line is near but don't think for one second that the Muskie boys' soccer team is looking past its opponents.
The Muskies (5-0-1) swept away the competition in Kenora last Wednesday, starting with an 8-0 rout of the Dryden Eagles and then following that up with a 3-0 shutout of the host Broncos.
The wins secured a first-place finish for the squad and a bye to the NorWOSSA final here this afternoon.
Head coach Chris Sinclair is confident the Muskies won't lose their focus or take their mind off earning an eighth-straight league title and another trip to the all-Ontarios on June 7-9 in Windsor.
“Preparation, focus, and composure is going to be key to having success today,” he stressed.
“It is easy to get ahead of yourself when you're the top team, especially when you have the reputation of winning,” Sinclair conceded.
“Seven championships in a row is very impressive and we want to make it eight,” he noted.
“However, there are two teams that I'm sure would love to break that streak.”
Sinclair also stressed the importance of his squad not looking past whoever they face in the final.
“Both teams [Kenora and Dryden] have played us hard throughout the season and we have to be ready for whoever we play,” he urged.
“We have to be prepared,” Sinclair added.
“We will have a good practice on Monday and Tuesday, then wake up Wednesday with the mindset of doing whatever it takes for our team to have success.”
The black-and-gold put on an offensive and defensive clinic in last Wednesday's wins in Kenora to close out the NorWOSSA regular season.
James Gushulak and Cam Lidkea both scored twice to pace the Muskies to their 8-0 rout of Dryden.
Aaron Bujold, Cole Magill, Sully Shortreed, and Nick Hahkala also tallied in the offensive outburst.
“I thought we did everything well,” lauded Sinclair.
“It was a very hot day and they [Dryden] had already played a game earlier,” he noted.
"So we played more aggressively and jumped on them early, wearing them down.
“We got an early goal and kept rolling with our game plan," Sinclair added. ”We had a 4-0 lead at [the] half and the game was over at that point.
“That allowed us to play some people in some different positions, which I believe was beneficial to us as a coaching staff as it allowed us to give different looks,” he reasoned.
Brett Allan then had a pair of markers in Fort High's 3-0 win over the Broncos, with Riley Argue notching the other goal.
“It seems like every week this kid's name comes up, and that's because he continues to impress,” Sinclair said of Allan.
“Brett Allan scored another two key goals against Kenora at a time when we needed a goal,” he remarked.
“He is having a very impressive first year with the team.”
Another player who has caught Sinclair's attention is keeper Jacob Albright.
Albright has been instrumental in the Muskies' success since taking over the reins after Cole Kowalski went down with a shoulder injury.
“Although he wasn't tested much in the first game against Dryden [last Wednesday], he made some very big and key saves early in the game against Kenora to give our team a chance to get the lead,” Sinclair recalled.
“I also have to give credit to our entire defensive line,” he added.
“Brady Bodnarchuk, Aaron Bujold, Cole Allan, Austin Armstrong, Kaden Nelson, and Ashton Cousineau have all just been getting better and better as a unit, and I thought they worked really well as a wholesome on Wednesday.”
Sinclair also praised the play of centre defensive midfielder James Gushulak.
“[He's] just such a key player and works well in the middle with our defence,” he noted.
"Not only is he a skilled soccer player, he is a hard worker and very passionate.
“It was nice to see a player who does so much defensively get rewarded by chipping in with two goals,” Sinclair added.
“But again, soccer is a team game and in order to have success, everyone has to be at their best,” he reasoned.
“On Wednesday, I thought lots of players had very solid games, which resulted in our two wins.”
Sinclair also has been thrilled with the progress of his squad over the course of the season and believes they only will continue to improve.
“Not one team is perfect and there is always going to be some room for improvement,” he conceded.
"Whether it be in our passing or timing or coverage or positioning or winning balls, or whatever it is.
“When I look at our performance on Day 1 in Fort Frances to our games on Wednesday in Kenora, we are a much better team and we continue to get better,” he added.
"That's all a coach can ask for.
“I like how we have come together as a team and grown throughout the season, but we must realize there is still one more game ahead of us and it has to be our best game of the season,” Sinclair stressed.