The weather may have been less than ideal and the field may have been a wet mix of mud and grass, but at the end of 80 minutes of play, the Alpena High School girls soccer team emerged a winner on Monday.
Isabelle O'Neil tallied two goals and Lexi Rushing added one as the Wildcats opened the 2012-13 season with a 3-0 win over Oscoda on a cold, rainy night at Wildcat Stadium.
O'Neil didn't take long to get going, scoring on a redirection just 4:01 into the contest. Rushing followed up with a goal just 4:03 later with an assist from Ellie Siegert, giving the Wildcats a 2-0 cushion early on.
News Photo by James Andersen
Alpena’s Alicia Oliver (15) battles Oscoda’s Carli Pollard for the ball during the first half of a girls soccer game on Monday at Wildcat Stadium.
Alpena coach Tim Storch was impressed with what he saw from O'Neil, a freshman and Rushing, a sophomore, who are the two youngest players on a team with a big number of upperclassmen.
"Izzy's got a knack for being around the ball and the penalty area. Neither one of her goals was a work of art, but they found the back of the net and that's what counts," Storch said. "It's nice to see two young players developing that kind of chemistry. I think we can be solid in back and in the middle, but we're a work in progress up top. It was encouraging to see things from Izzy and Lexi today. I think those two can really grow together up top."
The Wildcats also got a good game from junior keeper Carley Hoeksema who came up with several stops, particularly in the first half to keep the Owls off the board including a point-blank stop on Tori LaPointe late in the first half.
Constant rain and a wet field made it difficult for either team to get much of a flow going at times, but Alpena was able to keep on the offensive for several stretches. Rushing missed a few other chances at the net and O'Neil and Sarah Swider also had some opportunities.
O'Neil found the back of the net again with 9:40 left in the game. A shot from Rushing bounced off the post and after Oscoda keeper Kaylee Charters couldn't corral the ball, O'Neil was there to shoot it in.
Storch was pleased to start the season off with a win, but admitted he'd like to see better execution from his team going forward.
Alpena will have a quick turnaround as it hosts Ogemaw Heights tonight at 7 p.m.
"You always celebrate victories, but it was sloppy, no question. The execution wasn't anywhere where it needs to be," Storch said. "But the field and the conditions were the same for both teams and it's always nice to get off on the right foot and get a victory."