It came down to penalty kicks.
That’s how things were decided at the NorWOSSA soccer championships played yesterday in Kenora under miserable weather conditions that affected play on the pitch.
But those gloomy conditions were suitable for the bus ride back to Fort Frances for the Muskie soccer programs as both the boys’ and girls’ teams failed to bring home gold medals.
Hopes had been high for a “golden” day in Kenora since both teams had gone undefeated in exhibition play heading into the one-day NorWOSSA showdown.
But if things always went according to plan, then life would be pretty boring.
The Muskie boys opened action against the Dryden Eagles, who earlier had beaten Kenora by a 2-0 score.
“It feels like I’ve got jet fuel going through me,” Muskie co-captain Chris Faragher said before the match.
The black-and-gold scored the opening goal late in the first half on a play that started with Chris Plett controlling the ball in the midfield and then finding Craig McTavish, who proceeded to split the defence with a pass to Niels Nijssen.
Nijssen found himself with only the Eagles’ keeper to beat—and he did exactly that with a nice chip shot that trickled across the goal line.
“They’re tired and outhustled,” Muskie head coach Shane Beckett told his team during halftime. “Do-or-die. Forty-five minutes left. You’ve got to keep the pressure on.
“There’s no tomorrow if we don’t win.”
But a questionable call by the referee gave Dryden a penalty shot less than 10 minutes into the second half—and the Eagles converted to knot the game at 1-1.
And that’s how the score remained through the end of regulation time and two extra 10-minute, sudden-death sessions.
So the game come down to penalty kicks.
Although Curtis Carlson made one incredible save, and was able to intimidate another Eagles’ attempt to make him put it wide, the Muskies only could score on one of their five chances to fall 2-1.
“This doesn’t feel real,” Faragher said afterwards.
The Muskies ended up in second place after finishing with a 3-0 win over the Broncos two hours later in front of a good-sized Fort High cheering section.
Their first goal came after Dave Pierce feed Lucas Romaniuk with a chip pass, who then found Nijssen in the 18-yard box for a nifty re-direct.
Faragher made it 2-0 with a 40-yard bomb that squeaked under the crossbar.
The Muskies rounded out the scoring on the last play of the half as Arnold Bergner tallied on a penalty kick, giving the German foreign exchange student his first goal in the land of the maple leaf.
Meanwhile, the Muskie girls’ squad had started with a 1-0 win over Dryden in a game they easily could have won 4-0—and that narrow margin of victory ended up costing them NorWOSSA gold.
Kate Basaraba netted the Muskies’ lone goal while Shannon Gibson made a great save on a Dryden penalty kick to keep the team’s shutout streak intact.
The black-and-gold’s offence then dried up completely against the host Broncos, falling 1-0 (Kenora scored on a penalty shot in the second half).
So because Dryden had beaten Kenora 1-0 earlier in the day, that created a three-way tie—forcing a three-team shootout for NorWOSSA gold and a berth in the NWOSSAA championship.
Five players would be selected by each team, with each shooting twice—once against the two opposing goalies.
This format had never been used before at NorWOSSA, and there already was confusion on the second shot as a Nikita Mansbridge tally was disallowed after the officials discovered they had made a mistake.
“It’s not my fault they messed up,” Mansbridge could be heard saying at the spot where she took her penalty shot while the officials huddled.
And she was right. The whistle indicating for the player to take her shot had blown, and Muskie assistant coach Char Bliss made that known to the officials. But her argument fell on deaf ears and the goal was disallowed.
After 20 minutes of drama, it was Dryden’s keeper who stole the show, making a number of saves to give her team the NorWOSSA trophy, which had belonged to the Muskies eight of the past nine years.
Dryden ended up scoring seven times overall during the shootout. Kenora was next with five tallies while the black-and-gold managed just four to finish third.
It came down to penalty kicks.