Revamped Muskies take aim at gold

The 2002 Muskie boys’ soccer team hopes a little bit of everything will be enough to end a three-year drought for NorWOSSA gold.
“It’s starting to really come around, especially practices the last part of last week and this week,” said Muskie co-coach Rick Chambers, who has been working with the team this past month in preparation for their first game action at a NorWOSSA exhibition tournament here this weekend.
“They’re showing that game sense and that’s hard to teach,” he added.
Chambers will be joined on the sidelines by Ben Andrusco, a former co-coach with Keith Gilbert and Jason Kabel when the team last won the league title in 1999.
“We split the team up defensively and offensively, and the kids are responding well to it,” said Andrusco, a Muskie standout player in 1990-1991.
While roughly half of the team has changed from last year, Andrusco and Chambers are confident their players’ experience in the summer men’s league and indoor play will make up for that loss.
This year’s starting offensive line is relatively intact but the fullback (defence) line will sport some new faces.
For instance, gone are defensive starters Mark Mercure, David Lloyd, Jared Lessman, and Christian Gagnon.
Adam McTavish, who scored a team-high 17 goals last year, is the only starting offensive player who won’t return.
That leaves the Muskies with an experienced midfield and striker line of Kyle McTavish and Jeremy Wilson (strikers), Bryce Wither-spoon, Jamie Algie, Matt Basaraba, and Tyler Barker (midfielders), and a new four-player defence of Chris Faragher, Rick Ricard, Nathan Miller, and Simeon Nussbaumer.
Grade 12 student Dan Poper-echny will return as the starting keeper, backed up by Kael Blasky.
Rounding out the 21-player squad are Bryan Chambers, Scott Bridgeman, Barry Selin, Andrew Mueller, Chris Plett, Jacob Esse-link, Tanner Kaemingh, Andrew Curr, and Kaleb Firth.
Nussbaumer, a transfer student from Rainy River, has been assigned the key sweeper position. He will be looked upon to jump-start the team’s offence.
“Our experience in the mid-field and our scoring depth will be our strengths this year,” said And-rusco. “The only thing that we may have a weakness with is our defence.
“But the kids have really been coming together recently.”
“You have to own the middle of the field, that’s the part that is the most important. That’s where everything happens,” Chambers stressed. “If you could control that part of the field, you’re going to score.”
Last season, the black-and-gold went 13-2 to claim the top NorWOSSA seed. But they bowed out to the eventual NorWOSSA champion Dryden Eagles 2-0 in the semi-finals.
Chambers said the 11 returning players, along with the new faces, can make a serious run from the start of the season to the playoff hunt for NorWOSSA gold as long as they stay consistent.
“This team has all the potential to win NorWOSSA. They have to peak at the right time,” he noted. “We peaked [in mid-season] and not in the playoffs last year.”
Tournament play for both the Muskie boys’ and girls’ teams begins Friday morning at the St. Francis Sportsfields and run until Saturday afternoon.
From there, they will compete in weekly tournaments in preparation for the NorWOSSA playoffs May 17-18 in Kenora.