The Alpena girls soccer team (5-15) will host the first round of districts tonight against a team, Traverse City Central, that has outscored the Wildcats 13-0 in two games. Alpena has been held scoreless as a squad for seven straight games.
Nevertheless, coach Tim Storch believes his girls have a chance to take out Central.
"The first time we played them, we held them 1-0 for the first half and most of the second. They got some last-second goals, including one with 11 seconds left," he said. Alpena lost that first game 5-0.
The second time it played Central, Alpena lost 8-0 in a game that saw both teams lose against the elements.
"We had a really well played first half but then the floodgates came open, figuratively and literally, and flooded us out. But we can play tough," he said.
The Wildcats have scored 18 goals in 20 games but have consistently shown solid defensive instincts that have kept them in some close games and helped them keep Gaylord, one of the Big North's top soccer teams, down to one goal in a 1-0 loss.
"We held them (Gaylord) off for all but nine minutes of the game. We really stepped up and performed against the hardest team we played all year," senior defender Alex Przewozniak said.
Przewozniak has been one of the cornerstones for the Wildcats all year. Her defensive play have been impeccable as has her offensive drive. She scored four goals in a 4-0 shut out against Ogemaw Heights on May 2.
"We're gonna work as hard as we can. We don't really have the best record right now but we know what we have as a team and we're going to put it all out and play our best," she said.
Alpena has been hit hard by injuries all year. Top scorer Tatiana Burcar and defender Chris Trafelet are out with concussions. Defensive linchpin Mychi Shumaker has been in and out all year due to her injuries.
"It's pretty bittersweet but we've had a good career. It's been a lot of fun and we've had some great times but it's a little tough thinking that this could be our last game," Przewozniak said.
Other players who may make an impact include midfielder Rieke Hoffner, a senior exchange student from Germany who has been a consistent source of offensive drive and positive energy for the Wildcats.
"It's been really awesome (being on the team). It's one of the best things about being over here (in America). Since we're together every day, we got close really fast. They're amazing and so welcoming," she said.
Storch is planning on utilizing the Wildcats defensive strengths to pull out the win.
"We're gonna have to defend really hard. We know we aren't going to overwhelm Central with goals. Instead, we're going to have to tighten things up and keep the game close to the vest. We're going to have to score one or two and keep Central scoreless," Storch said. "There are a lot of sports analogies available, but I think we're going to have to pull off a Muhammed Ali style 'rope-a-dope' strategy and absorb the punches they throw our way and counterpunch when they're off balance."
Eric Benac can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5690. Follow Eric on Twitter @EricBenac.