Muskie girls come together to make final

Dan Falloon

The Muskie girls’ soccer team certainly picked an opportune time to record its first NorWOSSA win of the season.
The black-and-gold, who went 0-4-2 during the regular season, blanked host Dryden 1-0 in the NorWOSSA semi-final last Wednesday.
Unfortunately, they weren’t unable to pull off another upset in the final—falling 4-1 to the Kenora Broncos.
Muskie coach Sarah Noonan was encouraged by her team’s effort in the semi-final win over the Eagles, which saw Annika McTavish net the lone goal to send Fort High into the final with Kenora.
“I definitely was really happy, really proud, of how the girls played that game,” Noonan enthused.
“It was our best game of the season.
“Our goal was to come out on the last day and play our best soccer, and the girls definitely did that,” she added.
Noonan stressed all facets of the game came together in their victory over Dryden, with the defence holding steady and the offence, though only able to put home one goal, pressuring to notch more than that.
“[It was] just our overall control of the ball . . . our passing and possession,” she noted. “We were getting good opportunities on net, and defensively we didn’t let any goals in.
“All around, it was just a solid team effort and the girls just came together so well,” she lauded.
“It was everything we wanted to do in that game.”
However, the true test came afterwards with the top-seeded Broncos waiting in the wings with a trip to the all-Ontarios on the line.
The Broncos put a pair past Muskie keeper Nicole Horne in the first half, then added two more in the second half before the Muskies got on the board courtesy of Danielle Jean.
The black-and-gold weren’t able to bulge the twine again, however.
“We knew it would be a difficult match against Kenora,” admitted Noonan. “They’ve been playing well and scoring really well all season, and unfortunately they continued to do so in the final game.
“The players were putting in 100 percent effort and they really left everything on the field . . . I’m definitely impressed and happy with their effort and how they played,” she added.
“I just think that the Broncos were the better team.”
Fort High had struggled offensively for much of the regular season. And while they only scored two goals on the day, Noonan felt the set-ups were there—just the finish was lacking.
“We were getting more shots on net [on Wednesday], especially in that Dryden game,” she noted. “Kenora plays really tight on us. They gave us a lot of pressure.
“I think we had a few opportunities we didn’t capitalize on in that last game,” Noonan remarked. “I think we definitely could have had more than one goal, but that’s just kind of how it goes.
“We need to be able to finish and we just didn’t score as many goals as we needed to,” she reasoned.
Where the team improved from the regular season was in creating scoring chances. In several earlier games, the Muskies were able to keep the ball in the offensive zone for prolonged periods of time, but never really threatened the opposing keeper.
“I thought our service was a lot better,” Noonan said. “We were struggling earlier on where we couldn’t get that ball in from either the midfield or the flanks, on the outsides.
“We weren’t getting those crosses but we were doing that [on Wednesday], so that was good to see.
“We were creating those opportunities, but we weren’t always putting it in the net at the end, and that’s a hard thing to do.”
As for the Muskie goal, Noonan went on a gut feeling, putting Horne in net over Chelsea Hill, who had handled the bulk of the regular-season workload this year.
Against Kenora, Horne was tested throughout—and the ones that got past her were well-placed shots by the Broncos.
Horne was able to get a hand on one, although she wasn’t able to keep it out.
“Nikki really proved her stuff in exhibition play,” noted Noonan. “She played most of that last [regular-season] game in Kenora, so I wanted to see them both in that semi-final match.
“I just thought Nikki was playing really solid and she continued to. . . . She plays confident back there and she’s aggressive. I really like her style of play.
“[She] and Chelsea are both solid,” Noonan added. “[But] I liked the groove that Nikki was in, so I kept her in for that final game.”
Noonan felt Kenora’s bye to the final played into the Broncos’ hands—much the same way Fort High was able to make the most of watching Dryden and Kenora sweat out in the semi-final last year en route to the black-and-gold’s second-consecutive NorWOSSA title.
“There’s a slight advantage in that you don’t have to play that semi-final game, you have a bye to the final,” she explained.
“We got that advantage last year, but for the most part, the girls came out [this time].”
All in all, Noonan said it wasn’t too hard to stomach the results, pointing out that despite Fort High’s best efforts, the Broncos were the all-round stronger team.
“I’m not overly disappointed because I think the girls did play well,” she remarked. “I think they did play their best soccer [on Wednesday].
“We didn’t make our ultimate goal of going to OFSAA, which is what we wanted, but it’s all about being the best team on the last day and Kenora was, so props to them.”