The Alpena girls soccer team (5-16) lost 3-0 in the first round of the district 16 championship to Traverse City Central (10-11), in spite of much improved play from all players and several increasingly tight shots on goal.
"I'm exceptionally proud of their effort and their willingness to try something different, something which they'd never tried before (strategically). We came out like gangbusters and commanded the first 10 minutes of the game," Alpena coach Tim Storch said.
The Wildcats played an effective mix of offense and defense that seemed to throw the Trojans off guard. The Trojans continually adjusted its offense to match the strong early offensive drive by the Wildcats.
News Photo by Eric Benac
Alpena defender Hannah Fitch (5) moves in to intercept Traverse City Central’s Delaney Gartland in the district 16 game on Tuesday. Alpena lost 3-0.
"They've absolutely improved since the last time we've seen them. At some points, they were really giving us a run for our money and they battled hard. Our goal keeper made a few key saves that helped avoid making the game close," Trojans' coach Janna Deering said.
The Wildcats almost scored 90 seconds into the game, as Emily Duncan set up a superb offensive play and shot that almost put the Wildcats up 1-0. But it wasn't meant to be and the shot didn't hit the net.
Alpena was helped by the Trojans' trouble staying onside. The Trojans pulled almost 10 offside calls throughout the game. Its first goal with 16 minutes left in the half was called back due to an offsides call.
However, Central was able to score its first official goal with just under 12 minutes left in the half when Katie Ludwig pushed past Hoeksema for an easy boot.
"We only made three defensive errors in the whole game. In the past, we made more like five or eight. We played really tightly but those three errors really cost us the game," Storch said.
Alpena's Alex Przewozniak nearly booted in a goal with nine minutes left in the half and got a second chance on a penalty shot, but couldn't score.
Lexi Rushing came out strong and nearly scored for Alpena with 90 seconds to play in the half.
The half had less than 30 seconds left with Ludwig passed to Paige Pfannenstiel of the Trojans to boot in the second goal of the half.
The second half saw a lot of offensive pressure from the Trojans as Alpena tried to find its offensive groove. Especially effective were Rushing, Przewozniak and Ellie Siegert as well as several key backline players.
"The backline did a great job tonight, (players like) Megan Martin, Emily Duncan, they did a fantastic job of keeping the ball away from the net and opening up offensive chances," Storch said.
A hectic series of shots from the Trojans with around 23 minutes left showcased the solid goal keeping instincts of Carley Hoeksema as she blocked shot after shot while the ball continued to hover around the net.
The Trojans scored another goal with 11:08 left, once again off the foot of Pfaannenstiel.
Offensive momentum for both teams was minimal until late in the half when Przewozniak had two big chances to score but was stymied by the solid goal keeping instincts of Katie Wheeler.
Despite some struggles throughout the year, Storch was proud of the effort his team showed during his second year as head of Alpena's girls soccer program.
"The seniors this year were really something. They really took me into the heart of their soccer family and have grown immeasurably as players. Their record may not show off their success on the field but they've learned important life lessons which I've seen them apply to their lives daily. That's what intramural sports are all all about and they've reached a high level of success in that regard," Storch said.
Eric Benac can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5690. Follow Eric on Twitter @EricBenac.