Head coach Struchan Gilson calls them his “Energizer bunnies.”
But while his players kept going and going en route to a 3-0-1 record at an exhibition soccer tournament here last weekend, he may be forced to make some changes.
Simply put, the Muskies have too many talented players up front and that may force the veteran coach to have one of his more seasoned players take on a more defensive role.
“As a coach, I have to make a decision with all of these wonderful players so I might have to move a veteran player back,” he admitted Monday morning.
The Muskies, gearing up for another exhibition tournament this weekend in Kenora, were dominant offensively last weekend, outscoring their opponents by a 15-1 margin.
But, much like their season-opening tournament in Winnipeg earlier this month, they missed several more quality chances from in close. Gilson hopes a switch may give them a more polished attack.
A case in point was their 1-0 win over Thomas Aquinas (Kenora). The Muskies were all over the Saints right from the opening minutes but only Sarah Vanderplaats managed to score on a nice shot in the first half.
“We completely dominated them, especially in the first half, but we had lots of missed chances,” said Gilson, noting Thomas Aquinas never even had a shot on goal.
“Our players were working like dogs in the middle,” he added.
And that trouble scoring goals carried over to their next game against the Beaver Brae Broncos (Kenora), which ended in a 1-1 draw.
Playing under less-than-ideal conditions, with a strong wind and a wet field, the Muskies had trouble putting together passes and capitalizing on their chances in close.
Gilson felt they were “weak” in terms of finishing around the goal.
“We had our chances but when you’re going downwind with the ball, the ball seems to run on you and it did even more with the wet conditions,” he remarked.
“Teenage girls seem to have a lot of trouble with winds and rain,” he reasoned. “I think it hurts more skilled teams.”
Beaver Brae opened the scoring in the first half when the black-and-gold had trouble clearing the ball from in front of their net. But that lead was short-lived as Tea Vahanaki, a Finnish exchange student at Fort High, knotted the score at 1-1 less than a minute later.
It certainly was a different story for the Muskies against Rainy River and Sioux Lookout. They blanked the Owls 6-0 to open the tournament Friday morning, then crushed the Warriors 7-0 to close out play Saturday afternoon.
Gilson chose to play many of the grade nine players from his “taxi” squad in the first half and they responded in the win over the Owls.
“I promised my rookies I would play [them] in the tournament in town and that’s the system I use,” he noted. “I always like to use a lot of players and we are always successful.”
Still, it was the veterans who did the scoring. Chrissie Thomson scored a pair of first-half goals while Laureen Cousineau, Lynn Pollard, Karma Chudobiak, and Vahanaki netted singles.
Then against Sioux Lookout, Vanderplaats and Vahanaki each scored twice while Sarah Noonan, Thomson, and Tara Lloyd added singles.
The Muskies now have had 10 different people score goals in seven games so far this season—an amazing statistic which shows how much depth and balance their offensive attack has.
“What I’m seeing is quite a bit of offence up front and we are not relying on one person,” said Gilson.
In past seasons, the Muskies got the bulk of their scoring from Cousineau, a talented striker who is arguably the best player at her position in NorWOSSA.
Most teams know about her talent and have keyed on stopping her from the middle this season. Gilson said that’s fine with him because they simply will continue to move the ball more to the wings.
“Laureen has played really well and smart with the ball,” he remarked. “She’s creating lots of chances and when [other teams] start to key on her in the middle, our wingers come in from the side.”
In fact, of the 19 goals the black-and-gold have scored so far, nine have come from their wingers.