In a one-game showdown, with the winner moving on to the all-Ontarios, the Muskie girls’ soccer team knew full well the importance of playing at the top of their game against a formidable St. Pat’s Saints team from Thunder Bay.
Combining strong goaltending, solid play right from the opening whistle, and a few breaks going their way definitely was the key to the Muskies’ chances of advancing to London later this week.
Unfortunately, the black-and-gold failed in all three categories. And the result was a disappointing 4-1 loss to St. Pat’s in the final game of the NWOSSAA tournament last Saturday in Thunder Bay.
Both teams earlier had defeated Terrace Bay--St. Pat’s winning 8-0 and the Muskies 4-1 on goals by Laureen Cousineau (two), Tanya Hughes, and Sarah Noonan--to set up the one-game showdown.
But it was St. Pat’s who came out firing in the final--grabbing a commanding 3-0 lead just 30 minutes into the game. And that big, early lead proved to be too much for the Muskies to overcome.
“They were an extremely skilled team,” said Greg St. Croix, who just completed his first season as an assistant coach with the Muskies.
“[But] I really think it could have been a 1-1 game,” he added. “We didn’t play our best soccer, especially in the first half, but it was fairly even in the second half.”
St. Croix felt St. Pat’s first goal, coming just nine minutes into the contest, was crucial. “It was a huge goal for them to get their confidence started and, after that, their confidence just grew,” he noted.
“Overall, St. Pat’s is a highly-skilled team [but] we did not bring our ‘A’ game,” said head coach Struchan Gilson, who did not make the trip to the NWOSSAAs.
“But they are a good team and I wish them good luck,” he added.
Despite their less-than-stellar opening half, the Muskies did turn things on after halftime and actually played equal to--or better--than St. Pat’s.
Cousineau finally put the black-and-gold on the scoreboard when she caressed a throw-in from Lynn Pollard with her chest, spun, and then fired a shot past the St. Pat’s keeper.
But St. Pat’s later iced the game--and NWOSSAA gold--with a blast past Muskie keeper Amy Shute
Still, St. Croix clearly was pleased his team refused to lie down in the second half despite the three-goal deficit.
“The girls kept plugging away and kept coming at St. Pat’s, who had a lot of weapons,” he enthused. “It was a tremendous effort by our girls. They never gave up. They were always battling.
“Even the people on the sidelines, who weren’t playing, gave tremendous support,” he added.
The Muskies also were without two of their top players. Sarah Vanderplaats, who got hurt in the NorWOSSA final against Kenora the previous week, missed the whole weekend.
Meanwhile, Sarah Noonan suffered a “deep charley horse” in the win over Terrace Bay and did not play against the Saints.
St. Croix suggested those two gaps in the lineup may have been more crucial than anyone first realized.
“Those are two key players in the lineup and even though we have an extremely dynamic group in that we can change our players around, we still lose two players,” he reasoned.