Muskie boys set sights on bucking Broncos

Muskie boys’ soccer head coach Keith Gilbert feels his team has the talent to play with every squad in NorWOSSA–and they proved that by finishing with a 5-1 record at a pair of pre-season tournaments in Dryden over the past two weeks.
But now it’s time to prove just how good they are when the real season–the playoffs–go today and tomorrow in Kenora.
The second-seeded Muskies, who are in Pool ‘B’, opened round-robin action this afternoon against the Sioux Lookout Warriors and Thomas Aquinas Saints (no scores were available at press time), then will face the Dryden Eagles tomorrow morning.
The top two teams in each pool will advance to the playoff round later Thursday, with the championship game slated for 6:30 p.m.
Beaver Brae will be the team to beat if the Muskies hope to move on to the NWOSSAA showdown, and it was the Broncos who handed the Muskies’ their lone loss (a 2-1 come-from-behind decision last Thursday).
“They beat us but I think the reality is that we scared them,” Gilbert said earlier this week. “We’re very confident going in. We have the skill and ability to play as a team and control the ball.
“We just fell flat in the second half but I think, no doubt, Beaver Brae is thinking that they are lucky to have won that game,” he added.
The Muskies have proved they can control the ball–and the play–against most NorWOSSA teams, led by players like Adam McTavish and Steve Keesic on offence.
“We controlled the ball [against the Broncos], and had better chances, but we have to play a full 80 minutes–play hard right from the first whistle,” Gilbert stressed.
“We proved last week that we have a lot of skilled kids, a lot of talented players who have soccer sense,” he noted. “We lack size and experience but we are as skilled as most of the competition.”
The key, said McTavish, will be the Muskies’ ability to convert on any quality scoring chances that get. “We haven’t scored a lot of goals but we’ve had a lot of chances, a lot of through balls,” he noted.
Gilbert feels confident his team will be on the winning side of the scoreboard if there is a rematch against Beaver Brae. But he admitted that first goal will be crucial.
“We can’t give up any bad goals,” he stressed. “That first goal can change the whole complexion of the game.
“Psychologically, you don’t want to get caught up in that but if Beaver Brae gets down, they get down on themselves and then you let them beat themselves.”
McTavish felt it was imperative they jumped out to a big lead in their first game against Sioux Lookout in order to gain confidence for the rest of the playoffs.
Meanwhile, Gilbert said this team has improved tremendously since they were manhandled at their first tournament of the year in Winnipeg last month. It was a different level of competition there, he noted, but this team has come a long way in improving their own play.
“The problem with the Winnipeg tournament is that it’s so soon,” said Gilbert. “We had just picked the team a week or so before, and now as coaches we have learned a lot about our team and have been able to move the players around.
“We certainly haven’t seen what we saw in Winnipeg. We’ve controlled the ball well,” he added.
“We’ve played a lot better,” agreed Keesic.
David Lloyd, Christian Gagnon, and Nathan Miller are some of those players who have been moved around in the lineup, and the coaches feel their talents now can be better utilized.
“As games have gone on, we’ve discovered who works better in certain situations,” Gilbert remarked.
The one position Gilbert has yet to make a final decision on is who will be the team’s starting keeper, noting both Ryan Hampton and Dan Poperechny have played well in their time between the pipes.
“We still have some tough decisions to make,” he said.