Normally, a change in the playoff schedule is not something wanted by a team on roll, fearing it may kill their momentum.
Not the Muskie girls’ soccer team.
After securing their fifth-straight NorWOSSA title last Thursday in Kenora, the squad is looking forward to rest—and plenty of it—before the NWOSSAA finals begin June 1 in Manitouwadge.
The regional showdown was pushed back a week due to scheduling problems in the Thunder Bay league.
“We had to make due with a lot of injuries,” said Muskie head coach Struchan Gilson. “So we’ll welcome these next days to rest up some of our starters.”
Many of the injuries were sustained over the course of the season. Co-captains Christin Thomson and Carling Barton, and forward Trista Barker, lead the list of the walking wounded.
Thomson, the team’s leading scorer who is nursing a sprained right ankle, was used sparingly in the Muskies’ first two games at the NorWOSSA finals last week but then went the whole way in their final two games.
The girls trounced Dryden 10-0 and Red Lake 8-0 in pool play last Wednesday in Kenora to advance to the semi-finals.
Thomson, Amanda Allan, Sarah Barton, and Kate Basaraba each scored twice against the Eagles, with Nicole Rogozinski and Lindsay Roy adding singles.
Shannon Koval and Miranda Miller hit the twine twice versus Red Lake. Rogozinski, Barton, Thomson, and Rebecca Cornell also scored.
But their last two games Thursday—a 1-0 overtime win against St. Thomas Aquinas (Kenora) in the semi-finals and then a 1-0 win over the Kenora Broncos in the final—saw Muskie dominance coupled with rare goals.
“I thought we dominated them for the most part,” said Gilson. “But their goalies absolutely kept them in those games.”
Rogozinski scored her third goal of the tournament—and second game-winner—early in the overtime period against St. Thomas Aquinas.
Koval’s marker early in the final held up to thwart the Broncos and wrap up the Muskie girls’ 12th NorWOSSA soccer title in 16 years.
“I was very impressed with this team. It’s one of the most talented ones I’ve coached,” said Gilson, who began the program in 1986 but has only broken through to the provincials twice in the last seven years.
Injuries gave an opportunity for less-experienced players to deliver and show they can take the starters’ places in a few years.
“Players like Ashley Beaushene, Nikki Baker, [Koval], and [Rogozin-ski] had a tremendous tournament,” said Gilson. “Every game it seemed like it was someone different contributing in some way.”
The NWOSSAA final will be a three-team round-robin affair involving the NorWOSSA, SSSAA, and NSAAA champs. The top two teams then will face off in a one-game final—with a trip to the all-Ontarios on the line.