Muskie boys looking to nab first-place bye

Jamie Mountain

The Muskie boys’ soccer team set out with one goal in mind at the beginning of the season: make it to OFSAA for the eighth-straight year.
They squad is well on its way to achieving that.
Fort High nabbed a pair of 2-1 wins over the host Eagles and Kenora Broncos last Wednesday to improve their league-best NorWOSSA record to 3-0-1.
Head coach Chris Sinclair is pleased with where his squad is sitting in the standings ahead of today’s matches against the host Broncos and Eagles to close out the regular season, but knows they’ll need to be sharper to continue their success.
“One area I would like to see an improvement is our ability to play a full game,” he remarked.
“We allowed both Kenora and Dryden to get back into the game when we were up.
“We have to have the mentality that if we get one or two goals, we can’t let up,” Sinclair stressed.
“We must stick with our game plan for the full 80 minutes,” he reiterated. “Both Dryden and Kenora are good teams who work hard.
“So playing a full game is key to continuing our success.”
As for the games last Wednesday, Sully Shortreed and Cam Lidkea netted the goals in the morning victory against Dryden.
Then in the afternoon versus Kenora, Lidkea tallied again while Nick Hahkala had the other Muskie marker.
“I really liked how we played for the most part of the day on Wednesday,” Sinclair said.
“I thought we controlled the ball really well and moved the ball very nicely on the ground to get up the field.
“We have gotten much better being patient in setting up plays rather than trying to force a pass through or make a run that isn’t there,” he noted.
Sinclair believes the play of his key players was instrumental to the squad’s success last week.
One such player was Jacob Albright, who will man the pipes for the rest of the season after Cole Kowalski suffered what likely is a season-ending shoulder injury at the Broncos Challenge Cup in Kenora back on May 11-12.
“Losing Cole was big but it gave Jacob Albright his chance as a starting goalie and he did not disappoint,” Sinclair said.
“Jacob was the number-one factor that we were able to hold on to the lead late in both games.
“We are not sure if Cole will be able to return but I am 100 percent confident in Jacob,” he stressed.
“Especially after how he played on Wednesday.”
Another player who stood out to Sinclair was striker Brett Allan.
“He always works hard and uses his speed to separate himself from defenders,” he lauded.
“Another player who I thought had his best day of the season was Cam Lidkea,” added Sinclair. “He is a fifth-year player who we rely on in the middle.
“He’s got great ball skills and a very good shot, as evident by scoring a goal in both games.
“Having said that, I was pleased with a number of players’ performance on Wednesday,” he noted.
After today’s games in Kenora, the Muskies will host the NorWOSSA semi-finals and finals next Wednesday (May 30).
A win today will guarantee the Muskies first place and a bye to the final, which Sinclair believes will pay dividends for his squad.
“Having home-field advantage is always nice,” he reasoned. “It’s the fields that we practice on every day and have grown comfortable with.
“I believe the school does a great job in supporting the athletes, so this will be very nice for the guys to play in front of their family and peers.
“Along with playing at home, having that top seed is huge in our league as it allows for that team to rest,” Sinclair added.
“It is even more of a factor for the team hosting because if we are able to finish first, that means both Kenora and Dryden would have to travel here for the morning game.”
OFSAA is slated for June 7-9 in Windsor.