Faced with a schedule that forces his team to play all of their games in just over a month, the head coach of the Muskie girls’ soccer team knows full well the importance of playing as many exhibition matches as possible before the NorWOSSA tournament.
So despite winning just one of four outings against Winnipeg teams there last weekend, Struchan Gilson said he was excited about the positive affect those games will have on his squad down the road.
The weekend series also gave Gilson the chance to play all 25 of his players.
“In some of the games, our weaknesses were exposed and that showed us some of the things that we have to work on,” he noted. “But there’s no sense in winning all four games. It is better to lose some games and learn from our mistakes.”
Gilson said several of his backup players had the chance to show him what they could do.
“They’re not going to get better sitting on the bench or sitting at home,” he stressed.
And Gilson said he came away from the weekend action confident he has a very good team that once again will battle for the NorWOSSA title.
In a game marred by gusty wind, the Muskies opened action Friday afternoon against the Grant Park Pirates and jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead. Hannah Carter got the first goal while the second one went in off a Pirate defender.
But Grant Park battled back with two second-half goals to force the 2-2 draw.
Then the Muskies rushed across town to battle Tec Voc, coming away with a dominating 2-0 win. Carrie Selin got the first goal, then Tanya Hughes scored her first-ever high school goal on a header off a feed from Caylee Brow.
“I thought we dominated the possession in both games even when we were going against that wind,” Gilson noted.
But the Muskies’ undefeated string came to an abrupt halt Saturday with a 4-1 drubbing at the hands of Kelvin, the defending Manitoba champs.
The Muskies led 1-0 at the end of the first half on a goal by Sarah Vanderplaats (off another throw-in from Brow) but Kelvin exploded for four unanswered goals in the second half—including two off corner kicks—en route to victory.
Gilson said Kelvin was a “highly-skilled” team which took advantage of their smaller field.
“[The loss] exposed some of our flaws but I think we still played pretty good. Our wingers had pretty good pressure on them,” he said.
The back-and-gold closed out their series with a tough 1-0 loss to Vincent Massey in a physical game that saw the hosts handed a pair of red cards.
But because it was an exhibition game, Gilson said the Muskies decided to allow the Winnipeg squad the chance to play the rest of the game at full strength.
Gilson said he was especially impressed with the play of Laureen Cousineau, Brow, and Carter up front and Heather Evans and Christine Noonan in the backfield.
The Muskies resume action this weekend when they host a NorWOSSA tournament at Westfort, opening play Friday at 10 a.m. against Rainy River and then at 3 p.m. versus Kenora.
They play Red Lake on Saturday at 9 a.m. and then wrap things up at 4:30 p.m. against Dryden.