Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Muskie girls cherish historic OFSAA victory

Maggie Jean was at the eye of a storm of jubilation and barely realized it.
The low-key Grade 10 striker converted a redirection from Jessica Baxter at the 20-minute mark for the only goal of the game as the Muskie girls’ soccer team earned a 1-0 victory Friday morning over the Southwood Secondary School Sabres (Cambridge) at the OFSAA ‘AA’ championships in Collingwood.

It marked Fort High’s first OFSAA win of the 21st century.
“After [Jean] scored the goal, she walked back to half expressionless as everyone ran over to give her a high five,” chuckled Muskie head coach Alyssa Holliday, whose team finished fourth in Pool ‘B’ with a 1-3-1 record.
“At the end of the game, the girls rushed onto the field and were so excited,” Holliday added.
“Maggie was still in shock.”
Maryam Seid delivered the entry pass into the Sabres’ 18-yard box to Baxter, whose tip to Jean right in front of the net was put away with no hesitation.
“It was very exciting,” Seid said about the Muskies breaking through on the province’s biggest high school soccer stage.
“Maggie just looked at me and said, ‘Hey, right on.’ It was hilarious.”
Liz Allan played in goal for the first half, with Amy Penner coming in to start the second as the two wound up sharing the shutout.
“They both played well and turned away a ton of shots,” lauded Holliday.
“The girls played extremely well on defence,” she added. “We really played our game today [Friday] and we were making much better passes than all of yesterday.
“I think that this win shows the girls that we are capable of being competitive at the provincial level,” said Holliday, whose squad was Fort High’s first girls’ soccer team to make it to OFSAA since 2009.
“I think it also shows other schools that we can compete.
“I hope that going to OFSAA this year and winning a game helps the girls in Grades 9-11 want to work as hard as they can to continue returning to OFSAA and improve their own skills,” Holliday reasoned.
Fort High was, by far, the team with the most kilometres under its bus wheels in Collingwood—having travelled a total of more than 20 hours to reach the provincials, with no other team in the 20-team field having journeyed more than nine.
The bus legs, plenty of nerves, and a highly-talented opponent contributed to a rough start for the Muskies, who lost their opening match 6-0 to the second-ranked Belle River District High School Nobles on Thursday morning—allowing all six goals in the first half.
“On the Belle River team, there were five girls who have scholarships to the U.S. next year to play soccer—three with partial scholarships and two with full scholarships,” noted Holliday.
“With the rating of their team, I think we put them on a pedestal and that got us really out of whack,” said Seid, who played her last game of any kind as a Muskie after a stellar four-year athletic career.
“After the half, we got our feet on the ground and shut them down.”
Then later Thursday, the Muskies fell 4-0 to the eighth-seeded Archbishop Denis O’Connor Chargers (Ajax), who used a first-half wind advantage to score three times before the break.
Fort High rebounded Friday morning with the win over the Sabres, then finished play that afternoon with a 4-0 loss to the unseeded Holy Trinity Catholic High School Titans (Simcoe) in a game they only trailed 1-0 at halftime.
Holliday said all three of the Muskies’ conquerors shared a common trait.
“The noticeable skill that all three teams had was their first-touch control,” she remarked.
“They could settle the ball and then look up the field to make a smart play.
“The Muskies have been working on this first-touch control and they have improved a lot this year, but we will need to continue to develop in this area,” Holliday stressed.
While falling short of a berth in the quarter-finals, which went to the top two teams in each pool, Holliday said the trip was far from a letdown.
“I don’t think that our performance was disappointing at all,” she noted.
“Our goal this year was to win NorWOSSA and make it to OFSAA,” she added.
“We surpassed our goal by winning one game at OFSAA.
“The girls had great spirit and it was noticed by the referees, other coaches, and the OFSAA representative, who mentioned us in his speech at the banquet.
“We went to OFSAA to do our best and have fun, and we did just that,” Holliday continued. “[Assistant coach] Nicole [Avis] and I are so proud of the team we travelled with and coached this year.
“This group of girls are amazing. They are very positive and have great attitudes.
“They also have a great bond that makes them a strong team,” said Holliday. “Whether it was on the field playing the game they loved or singing in the microphone on the bus, the girls did it with heart and passion.
“We are both so proud of them and can’t wait to see what next year brings.”
“We were extremely successful in league games,” echoed Seid. “To never have a loss after last season, when we couldn’t win a game, was amazing.
“It’s been amazing to see the girls’ skills progress, as well as my own, over the years and it’s been a real pleasure to be part of an atmosphere that saw us achieve a goal we all wanted.”
So how possible is an encore performance?
“We have a strong group of Grade 9-11s, with some new talent moving into high school next year,” said Holliday.
“The girls know what they need to do in order to win games and be successful in NorWOSSA, so we plan to work hard and practise hard and return [to OFSAA] next year,” she pledged.

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