The Alpena soccer team hosted Petoskey on Thursday during a celebration of their departing seniors and their parents. It was a touching tribute to the seniors and an excellent way to start off a game against the hard hitting Northmen
Unfortunately, the Wildcats weren't capable of stopping Petoskey from pulling ahead and winning the game 1-0 to snap a six-game unbeaten streak for the Wildcats.
In spite of his team's loss and broken streak, Alpena coach Tim Storch had a positive outlook after the game.
News photo by Eric Benac
Alpena’s Alex Swider (3) attempts to stop an offensive drive by Evan Altman (2) in the first half of a soccer game at Wildcat Stadium on Thursday. Altman later scored the only goal of the night, helping Petoskey to a 1-0 win over the Wildcats.
"Petoskey is arguably the best team in the league," Storch said. "I told the boys tonight that this game was going to be the closest they'd get to tournament play. I told them it would be a good chance for them to see what they can do and how well they can play. I'm very happy with how they played tonight."
The first 20 minutes of the game were heavily dominated by Petoskey. Louie Lamberti had the first shot on the goal less than 30 seconds into the game and the Northmen kept on the offensive early on.
This was not a fact lost on Storch.
"The first fifteen minutes of the game, we played like we were catatonic. They were slow to react and attack," Storch said.
This point became poignant when Evan Altman scored the lone goal of the game 17 minutes into the first half. Alpena had only pushed into Petoskey territory four times during the same time period.
If the first half of the half belonged to Petoskey, Alpena dominated the next 20 minutes.
Aaron Mead had a near goal 20 minutes into the game and Willie Santos had another close shot about five minutes later as did Giulio Fantasia.
Santos was especially brisk, running fast and playing strong defense and offense against the Northmen.
Alpena and Petoskey fought tooth and nail for the rest of the half with neither team giving an inch or mounting any serious offensive pressure. There were a few chances on both sides, including a near goal by Fantasia with two minutes left to go in the half.
The second half mirrored the first half very closely: Petoskey dominated the first 20 minutes while Alpena came into its own in the final 20 minutes.
Alpena was able to break up multiple Petoskey offensive drives as well as fending off multiple shots on the goal. Mitch Skiba had several big saves on the night that were essential to keeping Alpena in the game.
As the half passed, both teams didn't let up for a moment. Evan Frank had an excellent shot that almost flew into the goal after 22 minutes had passed. Zach Kendziorski also had a few excellent shots on the goal that just missed. Petoskey continued its pressure but simply couldn't mount a successful drive.
Storch looked back on the game and singled out the problem that continually held back his team.
"We didn't capitalize on our offensive drives. Both teams had many excellent chances but we didn't seize any of ours. However, I think the boys played excellent soccer tonight and showed off that we can compete against any of the top three teams in the league."
District play starts for Alpena on Wednesday in Traverse City. They will the winner of Monday's Traverse City Central/Traverse City West game.