It only takes two wins to make a NorWOSSA champion.
That’s the mantra the Muskie girls’ soccer team is repeating after posting an 0-4-2 record during the regular season.
The black-and-gold took on the host Dryden Eagles in semi-final action this morning to determine which team advanced to play the regular-season champion Kenora Broncos for NorWOSSA gold and a trip to the all-Ontarios this afternoon (the outcomes weren’t known by press time).
The Muskies know anything can happen in the post-season—and it has.
Just last year, the Muskie boys’ team upset top-seeded Kenora in the NorWOSSA final. The Broncos had not only beaten, but shut out, Fort High on four previous occasions that year—a position this year’s girls’ squad can understand.
The black-and-gold were held scoreless in their first four NorWOSSA games this season before they came through with goals in a 1-1 draw with Dryden and a 6-1 loss to host Kenora in the regular-season finale last Wednesday.
Jessica Caul scored against
Dryden while Annika McTavish hit the mesh against Kenora.
And the Muskies are believing anything can happen on any given Wednesday.
“We are looking to peak as a team on Wednesday [today],” said coach Sarah Noonan.
“The best team on the last day goes to OFSAA and that has been our goal since the start of the season,” she added.
The storyline plays like a broken record, but Fort High has had all sorts of trouble scoring goals and Noonan is hoping to light a fire under her top attackers.
“We definitely have to score and that’s been a challenge for us this year, just putting the ball in the net,” she acknowledged.
“We’re just going to focus on being really offensive.”
The flip side, though, could lead to a run-and-gun style of game. And the Muskies know first-hand that both their NorWOSSA opponents, especially Kenora, are able to take advantage of any defensive confusion.
“We can’t have the defensive breakdowns that we had in the last game, though, so just keeping our head, keeping our composure, and just attacking . . . and creating more opportunities for ourselves,” Noonan stressed.
Noonan felt her team was put in a tough position last week, with only an hour to recover between games.
While there will be more opportunity to regroup today, should the Muskies advance from the 11:30 a.m. semi-final to the 3:30 p.m. final, the top-ranked Broncos don’t have to worry about bouncing back.
The Broncos earned the bye that allows them to watch the Muskies and Eagles battle it out in the semi-final before taking on the victor.
Noonan said her team just will have to make the most of its available opportunities.
“That’s the nature of our sport and the format of our league, so we need to focus on better game-day preparation to ensure that fatigue and mental mistakes do not hurt us on Wednesday like they did last week,” she argued.
“I will use my bench as much as possible to ensure my starters get the breaks they need, but every player needs to step up and bring their best performance of the season to the pitch in Dryden,” she stressed.
The Muskies have been able to play Dryden fairly well so far this season, earning an 0-1-2 mark against the Eagles with only three goals allowed over the course of those games.
That includes last Wednesday’s 1-1 draw, which saw the Muskies’ only goal against Dryden.
“We had a few scoring opportunities that we did not capitalize on, but shots on net are always a good thing,” Noonan remarked.
“I think we match up well with Dryden, and I look forward to a good semi-final battle with them on Wednesday [today].”
Should the Muskies beat the Eagles, a much steeper challenge lies ahead in the form of the Broncos, who dominated the black-and-gold to the tune of 6-1 just a week ago.
“The second game was a bit of a struggle for our players,” admitted Noonan.
“We let in three quick goals at the beginning of the game, [and] it seemed that Beaver Brae scored on every mistake we made that game while we were not as lucky.
“Playing the Broncos only one hour after finishing against the Eagles was a challenge for our Muskies in that heat,” she noted.
Ultimately, Noonan knows a third-straight NorWOSSA crown will be a tall order, but she expects her charges to get out and do their best to make a “three-peat” a reality.
“Dryden and Kenora have both proven themselves as great soccer teams this season and I look forward to seeing the Muskie girls step up and battle to win gold on Wednesday [today].”
She believes that if the effort is there against the Eagles, Fort High will be the ones with a 50-50 shot at advancing to OFSAA.
“We’ve just got to come out with a little something extra,” Noonan said.
“On the last day, it’s about who wants to win the most, so if we can prove that, then I think that we can take Dryden.”