You have to score with regularity in order to be successful at the all-Ontarios.
The Muskie boys' soccer team found that out firsthand as they compiled a 1-3 record and only scored a total of two goals at the OFSAA 'AA' boys' championship held in North Bay last Thursday through Saturday.
Fort High finished fourth in Pool 'D' and failed to advance out of round robin play.
“I think the first game was kind of overwhelming for us, which is expected,” said Muskie head coach Chris Sinclair.
“Not being used to that high paced game against very skilled and very good ball moving teams. When you give teams with skill opportunities, they are going to capitalize, and we found that out very quickly,” he conceded.
"I thought for the most part, we played pretty well though. I thought for the most part we defended the ball fairly well. The score of some of the games might say otherwise, but in most games, the score didn't tell the story of the game.
“Obviously we had a few breakdowns throughout the week, but that's going to happen,” Sinclair reasoned.
“An area that we need to improve on is our scoring. Scoring two goals in four games isn't going to get us very far. So just creating more offensive chances and capitalizing on our chances.”
Heading into their final game of Pool 'D' play on Friday afternoon, the fifth-ranked Muskies had failed to score while allowing nine against en route to three losses.
But the black-and-gold managed to get its offence going and salvaged a win in its final game at the all-Ontarios with a 2-1 win over the third-ranked St. Mary CSS Thunder (Cobourg).
Nick Hahkala and Riley Argue both tallied in that one.
That win gave the Muskies a 1-3 record at the all-Ontarios, good enough for fourth place in the pool.
The black-and-gold opened play Thursday morning with a 4-0 loss to the top-ranked Iona CSS Dolphins (Mississauga) before also suffering a 3-0 setback to the second-seeded St. Charles College Cardinals (Sudbury) that afternoon.
Then on Friday morning, the Muskies dropped a 2-0 decision to the fourth-ranked King's Christian Collegiate Knights (Oakville) to head into their final game with an 0-3 record.
The St. David CSS Celtics (Waterloo) claimed gold with a win over the Mother Theresa CSS Spartans (London) in the championship game Saturday afternoon.
The Thunder nabbed bronze while the Knights took home the antique bronze (fourth place).
Fort High had qualified for the OFSAA for the ninth-straight time by defeating the host Dryden Eagles 2-1 in the NorWOSSA final back on May 29.
“We were in a tough pool, so our chances right from the start were slim,” Sinclair conceded.
"We started the tournament against the No. 1-ranked [team] in our pool. They were a team who finished fourth at OFSAA last year, so obviously they have skill and were a really good team.
“Then to start the day on Friday, we played a team that finished fourth at OFSAA this year, losing their semifinal game in PK's,” he noted.
“So the two teams that did advance in our pool were the two better teams there. I think the one game that kind of got away from us was the second game of the tournament that kind of put us out of things. We ended up losing 3-0, but it wasn't a 3-0 game,” Sinclair stressed.
“They just capitalized on their chances, took advantage of our breakdowns, and once you get down at OFSAA with 30 minute halves—it's hard to come back. "Obviously it was a great way to end the tournament and the year with a win though,” he enthused.
Moving forward, the Muskies will be losing a number of key players to graduation in starting strikers Brett Allan and Riley Argue, a whole line of defence in Jace Jackson, Austin Armstrong, and Cam Bowles, along with midfielders Nick Hahkala, Brant Spuzak, and Ethan Carlson-Jourdain.
“All of these kids should be proud of what they accomplished not only this year, but throughout their entire high school as a Muskie soccer player,” Sinclair stressed.
“Brant, Austin, and Ethan have been apart of the Muskie soccer program since their Grade 9 year. Watching them grow and develop over the past four years has been a pleasure,” he enthused.
"They have been a huge part of our success over the past couple years and their leadership and presence on the team will be missed. Players such as Brett Allan, Riley Argue, and Nick Hahkala have been part of the program for the last two years. They have contributed a lot to our offence.
“Both Riley and Brett were fast and aggressive strikers who could finish, replacing those two up top will be a challenge,” Sinclair conceded.
“Nick is a really good soccer player who I could use all over the field. He is quick, has a good shot, has a good first touch and great ball control, and has a defensive mindset," he lauded, adding ”he will be another player in the middle that is going to be tough to replace.
Sinclair noted that I probably could have named all three players as the team's Most Valuable this year and that their efforts throughout the past couple years will be missed.
“Other players, such as Cam Bowles and Jace Jackson, played their first year with us this year. Even just playing the one year, their leadership and knowledge of what it takes to have success is something that our team needed and the both of them improved tremendously on the field throughout the year,” he lauded.
“Another member of the team that might not possibly be returning is my assistant coach, Mike Sande. He is unsure what he will be doing next year and can not commit to coaching,” Sinclair revealed.
“He has been great with helping me and his passion and knowledge about the sport will truly be missed.”