A few days after a huge comeback win, the Alpena boys soccer team took a major step forward on Tuesday, tying Traverse City Central 0-0 in a Big North Conference game at Wildcat Stadium.
From the outset, Alpena (5-6-2 overall, 2-4-2 Big North) played an up-tempo style that caught Central off guard and afforded several scoring opportunities for the Wildcats.
In the first half, Jake Kendziorski launched a shot that just grazed the outside of the post and hit the side netting and for a few moments the Wildcats thought Kendziorski had scored.
Alpena coach Tim Storch called Tuesday's game a big step for the Wildcats, who have shown they can play well against top teams, but haven't always had the results to show for it.
"It's a big step, I think, for our program to take. It's a situation where we've been taking baby steps and this was a substantial step. We didn't just pack the box and play defensively, we had some great chances," Storch said. "Normally I don't celebrate ties, but considering this is a team that beat us 7-0 on our home field last year, which was a good year for us, and then 5-0 earlier this year, it shows marked improvement."
Willie Santos nearly put Alpena on the board in the second half when he beat a Central defender to the ball, raced past the Trojans' keeper and booted a shot toward an empty net. Just as the ball got to the goal line, a Central defender came in and cleared the ball off the line to keep the game scoreless.
Storch praised the defensive efforts of Kendziorski, Elliott Zarins and Bret LeTourneau during Tuesday's game as well as the midfield play of Jon Fitch, Aaron Mead and Evan Frank. He added that keeper Mitch Skiba managed the game well, making all the saves he had to make and did a good job of communicating.
Alpena is 2-2-1 in its last five games and LeTourneau said the Wildcats are getting a lot better at getting out to a strong start every game.
"I thought we really came out firing from the first minute. We kept the pressure on and TC didn't really hold up against all the pressure, they collasped a little bit and didn't get many chances to score," LeTourneau said. "I think we're starting to come out stronger rather than letting the other teams come out faster than us."
Alpena hosts Alcona on Thursday at 5 p.m.