Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Muskie girls finally back at OFSAA

According to Mapquest, using the quickest route, 1,553.57 km separate Fort Frances from Collingwood.
Yet the lengthy distance cannot impact what seems to be an unbreakable bond between the Muskie girls’ soccer program and the southern Ontario community located on the shores of Georgian Bay.

Fort High nabbed its first berth at the OFSAA ‘AA’ provincial girls’ championship in six years after blanking the Dryden Eagles 1-0 in the NorWOSSA final last Wednesday in Kenora.
That meant an extended bus ride yesterday to Collingwood—which happened to be the site of the all-Ontarios the last time the Muskies made it this far back in 2008.
“It’s very exciting . . . I’m so proud of the girls,” lauded head coach Alyssa Holliday, whose team had a bye to the final after finishing first during the regular season with a 4-0-2 record.
“I’m very confident in this team,” Holliday added.
“When we play down there, the team knows it needs to step up its game.”
Fort High was confronted by a tough Eagles’ squad, who had swept aside the defending champion Kenora Broncos in the NorWOSSA semi-final that morning.
The physical element of the game was obvious from the outset—elevating to the point where it started to claim casualties on both sides.
The Muskies watched as left-side defender Hailey Beaudry crumpled to the pitch after being kicked by an Eagles’ player in an attempt at contacting the ball.
Beaudry had to be carried off by Holliday with a right-knee injury.
Fortunately, she looked good to go in practice later in the week, meaning the Muskies’ full roster is healthy heading into OFSAA.
While the teams shared possession fairly equally in the first half, a more rested Fort High squad appeared to gain steam as the second half wore on.
Then in the 52nd minute, the ball found its way to the foot of Claire Hyatt, who was playing with a tissue-plugged nose after catching an accidental ball in the face in the first half, causing a nosebleed that refused to quit.
But her restricted breathing didn’t prevent Hyatt from uncorking a hard rising shot that found its way over the head of leaping Eagles’ keeper Alyssa Deschene and into the net.
“I just shot it,” smiled Hyatt, the Muskies’ premier penalty-kick specialist.
“This is an amazing feeling,” she added. “That game was so stressful. It’s such a relief.
“It’s been a while since the Muskies have gone to OFSAA.”
“Claire has played amazing all year and, along with Angel McCormack and Katie Sinclair, has really controlled the middle of the field,” noted Holliday.
“We’ve been talking to her about taking the outside shot more often,” Holliday added.
“She’s more than capable of it.”
Fort High locked down Dryden for the most part the rest of the way, with Amy Penner making a pair of timely saves in the final 15 minutes.
“Amy played really aggressive and if she hadn’t, the Eagles might have had some even better chances,” said Holliday.
“Our defence played really well, whether it was younger players like Jaymee Fiset and Maggie Jean being in there or veterans like Sierra Cousineau and Erin Gustafson,” Holliday added.
“They played with heart and really pumped the ball up to our forwards.”
Fort High goes into OFSAA unseeded, with only the top eight teams in the 20-team field ranked before the tournament.
The Muskies, who are playing in Pool ‘B,’ will have to rub the sleep out of their eyes both tomorrow and Friday thanks to a pair of early-morning start times.
First up tomorrow at 7:30 a.m. (all times CDT) is the second-ranked Belle River District High School Nobles, who are coming off winning the SWOSSAA championship.
Tomorrow’s second game will feature Fort High against the eighth-seeded Archbishop Denis O’Connor High School Chargers (Ajax) at noon.
Then on Friday, the black-and-gold will clash with the Southwood Secondary School Sabres (Cambridge) at 8:30 a.m. before concluding preliminary-round play against the unseeded Holy Trinity Catholic High School Titans (Simcoe) at 1 p.m.
“I do not think that the early start times will be too much of a problem for the girls,” said Holliday.
“We will ensure that they go to bed at a good time.
“The first game is after our long bus ride so I think we may see a slow start in the first half,” she admitted.
“But they usually fall into step and play their game in the second half.
“I think that getting [the Belle River game] over with right away will be good for the girls,” added Holliday.
“That way, we do not have to wait and think about the game too much.
“Both teams will be in a similar situation with the travel and early start, so I think that it will be an interesting game,” Holliday said.
The top two teams in each pool will advance to the quarter-finals starting Friday at 4:15 p.m., with teams in Pool ‘B’ crossing over to play those in Pool ‘A.’
That’s a double-edged sword for the Muskies, who could find themselves facing the topped-ranked St. Martin Secondary School Mustangs (Mississauga) in the quarter-finals should they advance.
On the bright side, Fort High will avoid the possibility of having to face the defending provincial champion Ecole secondaire catholique l’Essor Aigles (Tecumseh) until the gold-medal game on Saturday since the Aigles are in Pool ‘D.’
“The goal is to win some games against some focused competitive soccer teams, some of which are playing all year-round,” said Holliday.
“We want to score some goals, get to the quarters, the semis, and the final,” she added.
“You never know.”

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