Muskies ‘confident’ heading to NWOSSAA

Sure, they didn’t play their best in the NorWOSSA final here last Thursday against the Kenora Broncos. Struchan Gilson, head coach of the Muskie girls’ soccer team, would be the first to admit that.
But they won and that’s the most important thing. Now, it’s time to move on to NWOSSAA.
Although his team struggled to nip the Broncos 1-0 on penalty kicks to win the NorWOSSA crown, and with St. Pat’s of Thunder Bay fielding one of its top teams in quite some time, Gilson isn’t pessimistic about their chances this weekend.
In fact, he feels the Muskies have as good as chance as any of the other two teams (which includes the North Shore of Superior champs) when they hit the pitch this Saturday for the two-game round-robin affair.
While the black-and-gold traditionally have fared well against North Shore teams over the years, there’s no doubt they’ll their hands full against a St. Pat’s team that went 8-0 during the regular season.
And they topped that off with a convincing 7-1 win over the Hammarskjold Vikings in the Thunder Bay final late last week.
“We are confident we are a good team, a deep team. And sure, St. Pat’s is a good team, but if we play like we normally do, we’re confident,” said the veteran head coach, whose teams have advanced to the all-Ontarios in four of their past eight NWOSSAA appearances.
The Muskies certainly looked strong at NorWOSSA here last week, going 3-0 in pool play (shutting out Rainy River 6-0 and Red Lake 3-0, and dumping St. Thomas Aquinas 9-1) and then crushing Sioux Lookout 7-0 in the semi-finals.
And Gilson said they won’t change their style of play against St. Pat’s, which boasts a talented array of forwards up front (strikers Katie Weatherstone and Judith Atwood, along with forward Jackie Traer).
All three also play on the Lakehead Express, Thunder Bay’s rep team.
But the Muskies are strong up front, too. Led, as usual, by talented striker Laureen Cousineau, they also have gotten plenty of offence from others like Chrissie Thomson.
Add to the mix the speed of Susie Grynol, the hard-nose play of Tanya Hughes, and the veteran experience of left-footed Sarah Vanderplaats, and the Muskies boast a strong arsenal of offensive weapons.
Unfortunately, it still isn’t known whether Vanderplaats, who was injured early in the NorWOSSA final and failed to return, will be in the lineup this weekend.
“We don’t know what will happen. We’ll just see who’s healthy to play,” reasoned Gilson.
If Vanderplaats is unable to play, Gilson would move Cousineau to the wing, where she played well against Kenora.
Gilson also admitted he was introducing a new defensive system during practice this week which aims to help the team protect a lead.
Last year, the Muskies blew a chance to advance to OFSAA after allowing two late goals by St. Ignatius in a 4-1 loss in the NWOSSAA final (that allowed the Falcons to beat out the Muskies by one goal in the goals for-and-against tiebreaker).
Gilson, who normally uses three forwards up front, said his new system would one of them drop back to clog up the middle of the field.
He pledged that type of debacle won’t happen again this time around.