Ironically, the dominance of their Thunder Bay opponents last year has made the Muskie boys’ soccer team’s route to the all-Ontarios a little easier.
Due to St. Ignatius’ silver medal win at OFSAA last year, NWOSSAA can send two of the three teams competing this Saturday in Thunder Bay to the all-Ontarios.
As such, the black-and-gold only need to get one win in the three-team round-robin to make the program’s first-ever OFSAA appearance in Sturgeon Falls on June 10-12.
The boys (10-2-1) will be joined at NWOSSAA by Manitouwadge (NSSSAA) and either Port Arthur Collegiate (6-2-1) or St. Ignatius (7-0-2). Their final last night was postponed and will be played later this week.
The Muskies will begin play in the morning against Man-itouwadge, who went undefeated in NSSSAA play this season, followed by a match with the Thunder Bay champs.
If all three teams finish 1-1, they’ll use goals for and against to decide first, second, and third place.
Sounds simple enough—beat Manitouwadge and hope for the best against Thunder Bay. Not so, said Muskie co-coach Rick Chambers.
“I’ve been hearing this from other people, other coaches. They’re saying we’re almost a guarantee to get to the all-Ontarios now. That’s wrong,” he stressed.
“Anybody can beat anybody on a given day. This team is good, it’s really good. As long as we do the little things, we’ll be all right.
“But nothing’s a guarantee.”
Muskie co-coach Ben Andrusco said the team doesn’t plan to deviate too far from what has got them here.
“As far as offence goes, we’re not going to change a lot,” he noted. “[But] we’re going to have to put in some new systems to concentrate on defence first.
“Our main focus is collapsing on the other schools’ top scorers, try to play for a close score. When you play defence, your offensive opportunities will come,” he reasoned.
“[Thunder Bay] always seem to have a higher skill level than us. It’s something we haven’t dealt with before. We have to plan to deal with that.”
Since edging the Dryden Eagles in the NorWOSSA final May 16 in Kenora, Andrusco said the extra week off helped the players rest some nagging injuries while still remaining on a confident high.
“Our mood is excellent. It was a big obstacle overcoming NorWOSSA. Dryden had always been our nemesis. It’s put our guys on a high,” he said.
“I think we’re looking a lot better this [weekend].”