Muskie girls look ahead to get better

No disrespect towards their NorWOSSA counterparts but this year’s Muskie girls’ soccer team is keen on fielding a squad that can get over the hump and return to the all-Ontarios.
The Muskies—who have amassed 11 NorWOSSA titles while carrying only 13 league losses in 15 years—have been knocked out of the NWOSSAA final by the St. Patrick’s Saints (Thunder Bay) the last three years, including last season’s narrow 3-2 decision.
Actually, the Muskies last won NWOSSAA in 1995 to qualify for the all-Ontarios (they also were awarded a berth in 2000 as the host town).
Head coach Struchan Gilson prefers to call looking ahead to NWOSSAA as a way of “refocusing.”
“We sat down and talked to these kids, who are all extremely focused, about what we need to do to move up to the next level. We’ve been getting closer each year,” said Gilson, who has held indoor practices with the team since March as a way to improve their cardiovascular fitness.
“Everything we’re doing now technically is aiming at one of the Thunder Bay clubs,” he noted. “I don’t think we’re overlooking NorWOSSA teams. If anything, it’ll make us stronger in our own league.”
Only three players from last year’s team—midfielder Sarah Noonan, centre back Sarah McTavish, and keeper Amy Shute—were lost to graduation.
And while they were key players, Gilson said there’s plenty of talent to support the team’s remaining veterans, including the sophomore crop of Sarah Barton, Megan Canfield, Ashley Wilson, Miranda Miller, Amanda Allen, and Hilary Morgan, who will look to get more playing time this season.
“That was just an incredible amount of grade nines from last year,” said Gilson. “They seem to get confidence playing and contributing on the team last year.”
Co-captain Christin Thomson and returnees Shannon Koval, Trista Barker, Tara Lloyd, and co-captain Carling Barton will be looked upon to pick up the scoring slack.
Thomson, an OAC student and starting striker, led the team with 19 goals last year.
Co-captain Lindsay Roy, Nicole Rogozinski, Noreen Hartlin, Danielle McGee, Nikki Baker, Rebecca Cornell, Ashley Beau-shene, starting keeper Jessica Wil-son, and Andrea and Marina Boileau are the other veterans, while backup keeper Amy Saun-ders, Rebecca Cornell, Sabine Ger-ber, Nikita Mansbridge, and Kate Basaraba are among the first-year players.
“They’ve been going very well,” noted Gilson. “This is one of the most skilled teams we’ve ever had.”
Noonan and fellow former Muskie Mandy Wilson will patrol the sidelines with Gilson for longtime assistant coach Caroline Spencer, who is on maternity leave.
The team’s toughest Nor-WOSSA competition will come from the Kenora Broncos, who were the only team to score on the Muskies in last weekend’s opening tournament here (the black-and-gold won the game 4-1).
The Muskies had beaten the Broncos 2-0 in last year’s NorWOSSA final.
Rainy River, St. Thomas Aquinas (Kenora), Dryden, Sioux Lookout, and Red Lake round out the seven-team NorWOSSA loop.