The Muskie boys’ soccer team has its eyes set squarely on the first prize of the season, but they’re making sure not to mistake it for the top prize.
The black-and-gold (3-0-1) needed just a tie in one of their two games today in Kenora to claim top spot and a bye to the NorWOSSA final next Wednesday (May 26) in Dryden.
The Eagles sat at 1-3-0 going into play today while the Kenora Broncos were at 1-2-1.
“[To get] first place is huge because, first of all, it was our goal,” said head coach Shane Beckett.
“Our first goal of the season was to get that first-place bye, and secondly, because it is a bye, then on that final day you only have to play one game,” he noted.
But Beckett was cautious when discussing the advantage of the bye, noting that while it still brings an advantage, that lift could be undone by a team that starts to heat up in the semi-final.
“It can work against you because you can be fired up after having a big win in the semi-final,” he warned.
“But I always say your chances are better when you only have to play one game, not two.”
Fort High won both of its league games last Wednesday in Dryden, getting goals from Jameson Shortreed and Brendan Cawston in a 2-1 win over Kenora.
Shortreed, Andrew Gobeil, Anniss Seid, and Caleb Heerema then bulged the twine in a 4-1 trouncing over the host Eagles.
Beckett felt his players have found a rhythm at this point in the season, with hard work drumming the loudest.
“We just need to keep doing what we’re doing, where the kids are playing their hearts out every game and they’re leaving everything on the field,” he enthused.
“That’s all we can ask,” he added. “If we keep doing what we’re doing, I think things will work out.”
A tournament in Kenora back on May 8 and 9 has seemed to be a turning point for the black-and-gold as two different Muskie squads showed up there.
Beckett was unhappy with the work ethic of his team on the Saturday, but a whole new roster seemed to emerge the following day—and that fire carried over to last Wednesday’s league games.
“What we’re doing right now is we’re applying pressure all over the field, especially really applying pressure to the other teams’ fullbacks when they have the ball,” he observed.
“That’s really creating a lot of opportunities for us, because we’re forcing other teams into making mistakes, which is giving us opportunities.
“So we’re out-hustling to balls, and we’re applying what we call a lot of high pressure, which is making a big difference.”
Seid, with three goals on the season so far, has caught Beckett’s eye as one of Fort High’s most improved players up front.
“As far as offensively, Anniss Seid is really starting to figure some things out as far as how he works, and the tools that he has, and how to use them,” Beckett lauded.
“His speed and work ethic have just been a handful for the teams that we’ve been playing over the last couple of weeks, so he’s definitely been a standout offensively.”
Meanwhile, the crew assigned to keeping the ball out of the net has produced a standout, as well. Beckett said Tim Metke has been able to turn rare blunders into opportunities to stand out.
“Defensively, the key guy for us is Tim Metke,” he remarked. “We call him the “Maytag Man’ because he’s ‘Mr. Reliable.’
“He just doesn’t make a mistake, and if he does, he just doesn’t let you get a shot off.
“At either end of the field, those are the two guys who have really been standing out recently,” Beckett summed up.
The Muskies have their last regular-season look at Kenora and Dryden today before facing off with one of them for a trip to the all-Ontarios on June 3-5 in Windsor.
The Broncos and Eagles are relatively evenly matched, with the teams splitting their first two meetings of the season.
Beckett also felt that in terms of a showdown for his team, there’s not much to choose between the two.
“The match-up, it’s different for both teams. We have to attack both teams a little bit differently,” he explained.
“I don’t think that I could say that I would prefer one team, or that I can see one team coming out on top of the other.
“They both play a different style, so I think between the two of those teams, whoever is going to want it more is going to win it [the semi-final].
“And what’s going to be the deciding factor is the heart they show on the field.”