One thing is immediately clear about this year's Alpena girls soccer team - the Wildcats can play some defense.
It certainly kept the Wildcats in the thick of Thursday's game against visiting Gaylord, but the Blue Devils eventually were too much as they posted a 4-0 win at Wildcat Stadium.
The Blue Devils (2-0) netted two goals in each half, but had a number of other chances. The fact that they didn't score more could be attributed to a big night by Alpena's defense, anchored by goalkeeper Emma Strong and the back line of Maggie Skiba, Alex Przewozniak, Amanda Temple and Emily Duncan.
News Photo by Chris Dobrowolski
Alpena keeper Emma Strong, left, tries to make a save on a shot by Gaylord’s Kinsey Burroughs during the first half of Thursday’s soccer game at Wildcat Stadium.
Strong came out to contest a couple of 1-on-1 chances for the Blue Devils, and the sophomore keeper was also helped on many occasions by fast defenders getting back and clearing the ball.
"My sweeper and my stopper mean so much," Strong said. "They did such a good job. It's a great feeling to know they are there to help."
Initially, Alpena had an answer for every Gaylord threat as the Blue Devils were able to mount some good attacks in the Alpena end of the field. But Gaylord broke through with goals in the 19th and 38th minutes of the first half, then tacked on two more in the last 14 minutes of the second half.
"Every coach is going to put their own stamp on how they want their team and one thing I saw was the potential for an outstanding back line," said Alpena coach Tim Storch. "It starts in goal. Emma is raw, but she's a good goalkeeper. She's got a lot of upside. Duncan in the middle and Przewozniak, plus Maggie and Amanda. Those four played well. We just got caught ball-watching a couple of times and the defensive clearing had got to get better."
Alpena's offense, which clicked late in its season opener against Ogemaw Heights earlier this week, wasn't able to find the back of the net. The Wildcats (1-1) did have a few chances, but nothing they could connect on. Alpena sailed a couple of shots over the bar.
"We didn't have a ton of chances, but the chances we were able to get were quality chances," said Storch.
Kinsey Burroughs had two of Gaylord's goals. Maddy Hamlin and Kaylor Mikolowski had the others.
Alpena jumps right back into action in a busy first week when it hosts Cheboygan tonight at Wildcat Stadium.