The Muskie soccer teams both took to the pitch in their first league action of the season here last weekend, with the boys coming out on the top of their pool while the girls fell to the bottom of theirs.
Each team played league games against the Dryden and Kenora on Friday, then played exhibition matches on Saturday—first a rematch with the Broncos and then an afternoon game against St. Thomas Aquinas (Kenora).
The boys beat Dryden 3-2 after trailing 2-1 at the half, then went on to tie the Broncos 2-2 that afternoon. They won the grudge match with Beaver Brae 3-2, only to be blanked 1-0 by St. Thomas Aquinas.
Striker Scott Gurski, who scored in the games against Dryden and the Beaver Brae rematch, humbly assessed the team’s weekend.
“Not bad I guess,” he said. “We played good on Saturday morning, but died on Saturday night.”
Head coach Shane Beckett agreed. “We improved over the course of the weekend,” he noted, but added, “We didn’t end on a high note.”
The Muskie girls, meanwhile, were something of polar opposites of the boys’ side. They lost 2-1 to Dryden on Friday morning, then battled Beaver Brae to a scoreless tie that afternoon.
After losing their second match to Kenora by a 2-1 score Saturday morning, they earned their first win of the pre-season by blanking St. Thomas Aquinas 2-0.
“I think we’re starting to play as a team better than we did in Winnipeg,” said centre midfielder Alyssa Holliday, who scored on a penalty kick against Dryden.
“We played a lot in the offensive end. We just need to put the ball into the net now,” she added.
Girls’ head coach Adam Craig said the team had plenty of opportunities but “just couldn’t capitalize.”
“I was a little disappointed with the outcome, but I was pleased with our performance,” Craig said. “I thought we outplayed every team this weekend but just had a bit of a scoring slump.”
One of the stories of the tournament—particularly on Saturday—was the wind. Beckett said the wind was a “huge factor” for all teams involved and was the main reason for the lone goal in their last game against St. Thomas Aquinas.
“It was a bad bounce that got up over our fullbacks,” he recalled, then added, “No excuses . . . why didn’t we score six goals the same way?”
Craig had a similar experience.
“The wind played havoc with the game,” he noted. “We’re trying to keep the ball on the ground, but you could definitely tell you had a sizeable advantage when you got the wind with you as opposed to against you.”
Both teams also got their goaltending situation a little more focused after the weekend. The boys have narrowed their field down to Matt DePiero and Terry Carmody, which will free up the other two players they had keeping the net to become more comfortable in position play.
Craig, meanwhile, was able to get rookie keeper Taylor Meyers out on Saturday, who split the shutout with veteran Shannon Gibson.
The Muskies next head to Kenora tomorrow for a two-day tournament that will be the final tune-up before the NorWOSSA championships next Wednesday (May 16) in Dryden.
The boys head to Kenora leading their pool, but know where to improve.
“We could’ve tossed the ball [downfield] a little better,” said Matt Beacham, who scored a goal in the Muskies’ tie match with the Kenora Broncos on Friday afternoon.
“We need to do more one-touches. We hold the ball too much . . . and just get swarmed.” agreed Gurski.
And while the Muskie girls are coming in as the underdogs, with the soccer season being so short, anything’s possible.
“Fate’s in our own hands. We have two games to win to take the division,” said Craig.