Muskie girls’ soccer team stressing defence

For a team that just reeled off five-straight shutouts in winning NorWOSSA last Thursday in Kenora, it would seem stressing defence would be the least of their worries
But the Muskies know full well that their game–especially in the defensive zone–will have to be taken up a few notches when they host the all-Ontarios here May 31-June 3.
After all, teams competing at OFSAA are much more skilled offensively than one from, say, Sioux Lookout.
“We are going to be playing teams that are very skilled,” admitted Muskie head coach Struchan Gilson, who last had a team compete at OFSAA in 1995. “We must be very much aware [of the other team’s offence].”
And that’s why the Muskies will be hammering defence, defence, and more defence in the week leading up to the provincial tournament, which will see the top 16 teams in Ontario vying for the gold medal.
“We’re really going to work on defence even though we’re happy that no one scored on us at NorWOSSA,” agreed Muskie assistant coach Caroline Spencer.
“We want to really stress defence, especially in the first 20 minutes of [the first] game,” she added.
The key to the Muskies’ defensive play will be their ability to pack the 18-yard box and clear all loose balls out of harm’s way. But Spencer also stressed their wingers will have to make a concerted effort to get back in the defensive end so those cleared balls will have someone wearing black-and-gold colours on the receiving end.
But that’s nothing new to the Muskies’ philosophy, which uses a unique 4-4-2 system.
“Our system should control teams and what we’re hoping is to run and work hard. We want to prevent the big blowout,” said Gilson, noting none of his players have OFSAA soccer experience.
Spencer noted they’ll be making no changes to their game plan for OFSAA. Instead, they are going to concentrate on being first to the ball at all times and sharpen up their give-and-go plays.
“We want to really stress to be first to the ball, to meet the ball, and if we do that, we should be just fine,” said Spencer. “We want to play like how we did against Thomas Aquinas.”
In that NorWOSSA playoff game, Laureen Cousineau, the Muskies’ top scorer, was on fire–scoring four goals. And she’ll have to have her scoring touch in top form if the black-and-gold expect to be competitive at OFSAA.
As well, the Muskies are going to need offensive production from the likes of Chrissy Thomson and Sarah Vanderplaats
“They really clicked in Kenora, especially against Thomas Aquinas,” said Spencer. “The offence came together and they were working well.”
Gilson knows its imperative that their top players perform to their standards. If they don’t, it could be an early exit for the Muskies.
“We do have people who can score and when we get our chances, we’re going to have to score,” he noted. “We need good goalkeeping and we need our big people to step up. All of our big people have to step up.”
In related news, since the Muskies won’t be competing at NWOSSAA, the black-and-gold will play an exhibition game against Fort High alumni this Friday at 6:30 p.m. at the St. Francis pitch to stay in shape over the break leading up to the all-Ontarios.
The Rainy River Owls, who lost 3-0 to the Muskies in the NorWOSSA final up in Kenora last week, are preparing for their first-ever NWOSSAA appearance against the Thunder Bay and North Shore champs.