It's been another great start to the season for the Muskie boys' soccer team.
After defeating both the visiting Dryden Eagles and Kenora Broncos by a combined 7-0 total in the NorWOSSA season-opening games last Wednesday, the black-and-gold kept that momentum rolling as they battled to a third-place finish at the Broncos Challenge Cup tournament in Kenora over the weekend.
The Muskies compiled a 3-1 record over the two-day tourney despite not playing their best in their afternoon games.
“I thought we played pretty well for the most part of the weekend,” said Muskie coach Chris Sinclair.
“Having said that, I thought on both Friday and Saturday, our second game of the day wasn't our strongest,” he conceded.
"Both days were fairly warm and we had a long gap in between games, especially on Friday. We were just a little off in both afternoon games.
“We weren't aggressive on the ball or challenging the ball as much. We were sitting back, giving them space to make plays and move the ball,” he stressed.
“This is obviously something we will need to improve on as in our league—we play the two games per day.”
The Muskies opened play with a 4-1 win over the Sioux Lookout Warriors on Friday afternoon on the strength of Riley Argue's two goals.
Brady Bodnarchuk and Lamar Lucas also bulged the twine for the Muskies.
Fort High then followed that up by routing the Eagles 5-1 later that day.
Brett Allan and Riley Argue both found the back of the net twice while rookie striker Brandon Croswell also tallied.
Those two wins helped to set up a semi-final showdown against the Crocus Plains Plainsmen (Brandon) on Saturday afternoon.
The skill level of the Plainsmen proved to be too much as the Muskies suffered a 3-0 loss.
That put the black-and-gold into the bronze-medal game against the Warriors later in the day.
Argue notched the only goal the Muskies needed to pull out a narrow 1-0 win. Jacob Albright and Brady Meeks shared the shutout in goal, with Albright manning the pipes for the Muskies' previous three games.
“I thought our first game against Sioux Lookout was really good. We were energized and played a fast pace,” Sinclair lauded.
"We moved the ball really well down the field and were able to generate lots of scoring opportunities from that.
Our semifinal game against Crocus Plains, I think we just ran into a better team," he reasoned.
“Although we lost 3-0, I thought we played relatively well. They were a very skilled team who worked well together. A couple minor breakdowns in our own half of the field which cost us a couple goals, but other than that we played a pretty good game,” he stressed.
Sinclair said that the Muskies were very pleased with their third-place finish in Kenora and that he felt as though they played solid 60-minute games all weekend.
“And in the games we didn't play our best, we still found a way to win. That is something that is very pleasing for a coach,” he enthused.
“I realize that everyone isn't going to be on their best every day or every game, but when a team can battle through a little adversity and find ways to win—it just means the team is going in the right direction,” he reasoned.
“There were some good soccer teams at the Kenora tournament and a third-place finish is very satisfying for us.”
As mentioned, the Muskies got off to a brilliant start in NorWOSSA regular season play here last Wednesday.
Fort High rolled to a 4-0 shutout of the Eagles in the opener that morning on the strength of three first-half goals.
Connor Nelson, Declan Webb, and Argue all tallied to put the host Muskies in control with a 3-0 halftime lead.
Brett Allan then was hauled down inside the Eagles' 18-yard box in the second half, leading to a penalty kick.
Cole Magill promptly stepped up and buried a shot past the Dryden keeper to round out the scoring.
The Muskies kept that momentum rolling in their afternoon showdown against the Broncos as Albright nabbed his second-straight clean sheet in net as his squad nabbed a 3-0 win.
After Allan opened the scoring in the first half, Magill fired a beautiful strike from distance just outside the 18-yard box that eluded the Broncos' keeper top shelf to make it 2-0 in the second half.
Allan then rounded out the scoring later in the half when he corralled a pass through the middle and chipped a shot past the Kenora keeper.
“I think the biggest keys to success on Wednesday was playing our game. We controlled the ball against both Beaver Brae and Dryden, which caused them to chase the ball and break down in areas,” Sinclair recalled.
"We used our speed both up front and down the wings, which neither team could handle. Brett Allan caused three penalty kicks—all in which we scored on—just by making nice runs down the outside and cutting in, being forced for them to take a penalty or allow him to just walk in.
“If we continue to move and play at a high pace against these teams, I think we will continue to have success,” he predicted.
The Muskies (2-0) resumed NorWOSSA play today in Dryden with games against the host Eagles (0-2) and Broncos (1-1), with the outcomes not known as of press time.
Sinclair stressed the importance of these games as a pair of wins would lock up first place in the standings and with it—a bye to the NorWOSSA final.
“Not having to play that morning semi-final game in the NorWOSSA final is a huge advantage,” he remarked.
“So going into [today's] games, our focus and mindset has to be there. We have to play with the intensity that we played with last week and we need to come out ready with a strong start and control the ball," he urged. "We cannot take either team lightly just because of the results last week.”
Kenora will host the regular season-finale next Wednesday (May 22), with the NorWOSSA playoffs to follow on May 29 in Dryden.