Muskie girls set to kick off regular season

Lucas Punkari

The pre-season preparations are over and the real season can now begin.
That’s the attitude the Muskie girls’ soccer team is bringing into their opening set of NorWOSSA games today at Fort High.
They faced the Kenora Broncos at 11:30 a.m., then will take on the Dryden Eagles at 5:30 p.m.
“I’m happy with what I am seeing so far,” Muskie head coach Sarah Noonan said.
“It was good to have that one pre-season game [a 4-1 win over the Rainy River Owls on April 21] to really pump the girls up and get them ready for the year,” she reasoned.
“For the most part, we have a very responsive group of girls and the returning players already know the system, so we have a solid core to build around.”
Today’s games also mark the first time the black-and-gold have gone up against their district rivals since last year’s NorWOSSA playoffs, where the Muskies nipped Dryden 1-0 in the semi-finals before falling 4-1 to Kenora in the final.
“Last year we were pretty evenly-matched with Dryden during the year while Kenora had a little bit more skill than us,” admitted Grade 12 player Sara Roach.
“But they [the Broncos] play against St. Thomas Aquinas regularly there, so that helps them.
“This year, though, I think Kenora lost a few of the players from last year, so I think although we may have a younger team, we should be able to develop quickly and compete,” Roach stressed.
For those new players, one of the things they’ll have to get used to is playing two 80-minute games in one day, which is what will occur each Wednesday during the NorWOSSA regular season.
“I’m not really knowing what to expect as I haven’t played two games in one day before,” first-year player Chantal Jodoin conceded.
“I’m sure it’ll be tiring but it should also be fun, as well,” she added.
“It’s hard because you want to be able to use top players for both games, but you also want to make sure that you don’t burn them out,” Noonan stressed.
“We have depth on our bench, and we’re making sure that everyone is fit and taking care of their bodies because it takes a lot to play two games in one day.
“But that’s the reality of our league,” Noonan said.
In addition to their NorWOSSA schedule, which will run through May, with the champion earning a berth to the all-Ontarios in Windsor on June 2-4, the Muskie girls also will be hosting four other teams in an exhibition showdown on May 13-14.
Then they’ll head to Duluth for a trio of games over the Victoria Day long weekend.
“I’m pumped for both of those, but especially the trip to Duluth,” Noonan said.
“It’s the first time that the Muskie program has ever matched up against competitive youth teams in Minnesota,” she noted.
“And also being a former member of the UMD Bulldog women’s soccer team, it’s really special for me to bring the girls to my former home stadium.”
“I’m sure that our 7:30 p.m. match [on May 20 against the U15 Gitchi Gummi Soccer Club] under the lights will be one that the girls will always remember,” Noonan enthused.