The Muskie girls’ soccer team will kick off its season this weekend with a series of exhibition games in Winnipeg that could prove instrumental in shaping this year’s squad.
Rookie coaches Adam and Laura Craig said they are looking forward to being able to evaluate their new team under game conditions, as well as experiment with formations and line-ups.
As such, they believe the outcomes of the games in Winnipeg will be less important than the effort level and attitudes put forth by the players.
“This upcoming weekend we’re not putting a lot of expectations on these girls,” Adam Craig remarked. “We obviously want them to compete at their highest level, but we really just want them to have fun and see how they play together.
“I think we’re going to try a lot of different things. We’ll try different formations,” he added. “We’re also going to have kids play different positions just to get a feel for where they’re best suited.”
The Craigs only recently assumed the responsibility of coaching the Muskie girls this season and so they aren’t entirely sure what kind of team they’ve inherited.
“I haven’t really got a feel for the girls yet but I think they’re a talented bunch,” Craig said following practice at Fort High on Monday.
Despite having had only a handful of practices to get to know his players and begin drills, Craig has been impressed with what he’s seen out of his charges, particularly in terms of their raw athletic ability and physical fitness.
He believes both attributes should serve as strengths of the team.
“We’ve got an athletic bunch of girls,” he enthused. “A lot of them haven’t played soccer in the past, which is going to be the toughest thing, but in terms of physical conditioning, speed, and strength, those are the strengths of our team.”
In addition to the overall athleticism of the group, the Muskies should boast an excellent group of defenders. Three veterans at that position are back this season and should provide solid coverage in their own end.
Craig said the fourth defender position likely will be filled by one of several promising rookies.
But while the Muskies are chock full of athletic talent and quality defenders, they are lacking experience at other positions on the pitch.
As a result, the coaches understand they’ll need to spend time in practice teaching the fundamentals of the game in order to maximize the team’s physical abilities.
“The girls just need to get comfortable working together,” Craig said of the inexperienced players. “We’ll have to slow the game down a bit and work on our passing.”
Despite the lack of experience at several positions, Craig remains confident the team will be competitive. And both coaches believe the black-and-gold have a realistic shot at qualifying for OFSAA.
“Our hope is to get out of NorWOSSA and represent the northwest at OFSAA,” Adam Craig said.
Like the boys, the format for qualifying for the all-Ontarios changed during the off-season. The region now has been divided into three divisions, with ‘A’ including the smaller schools (like Rainy River) and ‘AA’ featuring Fort Frances, Kenora, and Dryden.
The ‘AAA’ division is made up of teams from Thunder Bay.
Under the new system, the top team in each division will advance to OFSAA, meaning Fort High only has to top two other schools to earn a spot at the provincial showdown.