Muskie soccer teams chasing NorWOSSA gold

Both Muskie soccer teams are preparing to wrap up their short season today at the NorWOSSA playoffs up in Dryden.
While the boys come into the league playoffs at the bottom of their pool, the girls are on top of theirs and so get a bye into the final—something co-head coach Adam Craig is plenty pleased about.
“It’s a huge advantage,” he remarked. “I mean, last year we had to go the hard route and we had two injuries in the semi-final game.”
His counterpart on the boys’ side, Shane Beckett, doesn’t have the luxury of the bye. He also has to deal with a team that had led its pool before falling to last place in their final tune-up games before the playoffs.
“I would’ve liked better results, that’s for sure,” Beckett said.
Even though the boys have to beat the Dryden Eagles in the semi-final, then the Kenora Broncos in the final to win NorWOSSA gold, while the girls just need to beat one of them, both squads are focused squarely on today.
“The day,” as Beckett calls it.
“I mean, it’s a tight league . . . everyone’s won and lost against each other,” he noted.
The Muskie girls, conversely, are entering the league playoffs on a high note. Craig said leading league play after being ranked last the previous week was vindicating.
“The spirits were low after the first weekend, but we had it in us,” he said. “We’ve been thoroughly impressed with the girls this year and they deserve it more than anyone.”
Midfielder Natalie Cain said coming out on top was “awesome. I was really proud of our team.”
“We work our butts off . . . we finally communicated and because of communication, our passes are bang on,” she added.
While the boys are coming off a pair of shutout losses last Thursday in Kenora, they earned a tie and win in exhibition play the following day.
Striker Scott Gurski said they played on a much different level in the exhibition games after a pep talk by Beckett the night before. He said they need to keep that meeting in mind today.
“Everyone’s just going to have to look inside themselves and say ‘We’re going to do this for the team,’” he insisted. “When we play like we can, we can beat anyone.”
The boys have something of a secret weapon in hand—a full roster. Save for Garnet Cornell, a forward/midfielder who is out with an ankle sprain, the black-and-gold will be suiting up all their players for the first time this season.
“No one’s seen our full team yet. We haven’t seen it,” Beckett laughed.
He added Cornell probably would be back in time for OFSAA—should the Muskies get that far. “It [his injury] can be season-ending if our season is ending,” he admitted.
The girls, meanwhile, haven’t lost a game since getting their full side last week. Craig said there’s little to do in terms of conditioning, so practices took a new focus this week.
“To have fun,” he said. “I think this late in the stage, we’ve done everything we possibly could.”
Beckett agreed. “The key to this week is to make sure we’re as injury-free as we can be,” he remarked.
Instead, the boys will focus on some mental conditioning.
“We’ve been beating ourselves up about lack of results,” Beckett said over shouts and laughs of his squad running through trust exercises. “You can’t afford mental mistakes.
“These guys are having fun on the field,” he added. “Usually, the outcome’s better.”
Craig would like to see his girls improve on their finishing for the NorWOSSA final.
“We saw a little bit of it last week,” he said. “If we’re going to go on, we’re going to need to put the ball in the back of the net.”
For Beckett, he just wants to push his players to be at their best.
“We know exactly what we’re going to get out of both teams [Dryden and Kenora],” he said. “We need to focus on our game . . . make them play to us and not us play to them.”
The boys opened against Dryden this morning, with the winner moving on to meet Kenora in the final this afternoon.
The girls also play this afternoon against the winner of the Dryden/Kenora semi-final match.