Wildcats come up short

Gabriel Richard clips Alpena in Huron Shores Tournament final

News Photo by James Andersen Alpena players Chris O’Neil, left, and Noah Carstens, right, try to strip the ball away from Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard’s Andrew O’Meara during the championship game of the Huron Shores Tournament on Saturday at Wildcat Stadium.

Tim Storch couldn’t explain it.

Couldn’t explain the slow start; couldn’t explain the lack of energy; couldn’t explain why it took so long for his Alpena boys soccer team to get going.

Regardless of what the answer was, the slow start ultimately cost the Wildcats as they lost to Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard 2-0 in the final of the Huron Shores Tournament Saturday at Wildcat Stadium.

Andrew O’Meara scored twice in the first 12 minutes to lift the Fighting Irish to victory in a physical game that saw nearly half a dozen yellow cards given out.

“It’s frustrating that we didn’t start playing until we were two goals down and I don’t have an explanation for that,” Storch said. “They reacted as if we had been playing in the heat all day and Gabriel Richard had been playing a bubbled, air-conditioned dome.”

O’Meara had a chance for a hat trick late in the game, but was stopped by Alpena keeper Lawson Labean on a penalty kick.

Gabriel Richard finished the tournament 3-0 and outscored its opponents 16-0.

O’Meara’s big game spoiled an otherwise good day for Alpena (9-6-1). The Wildcats defeated Kalkaska 2-1 and Cheboygan 8-0 to reach the title game.

By the end of the day however, the Wildcats’ energy seemed to wane, especially in the first half of the final. Gabriel Richard moved the ball well and attacked on offense, keeping Labean busy and standings toe-to-toe with Alpena physically.

Alpena had several chances to get back into the game, especially in the second half, but couldn’t find the back of the net. The Wildcats picked up their intensity in the final minutes of the game, but the Fighting Irish were able to hang on to preserve the shutout.

“We had some glorious chances to get back in that we didn’t capitalize on. Finishing has been a bit of a bugaboo for us,” Storch said.

Alpena started the day off with a win over Kalkaska, getting a goal from Grant Botha less than five minutes into the game. Aidan Day added a goal with about 12 minutes left in the half on a penalty kick.

Kalkaska tied the game at one with 22 minutes left in the first half, but Day’s goal put Alpena back out in front.

The Blazers nearly tied the game twice in the final minute. A free kick went high past the net with 50 seconds left and with 20 seconds left when Ethan Durfee fired a shot toward the net. Labean made a jumping save on the shot to keep Alpena ahead for the win.

Alpena scored early and often against Cheboygan as Day (twice), Botha, Caleb Eaton, Walker Martin, Deven Saranen, Joe Guest and Lucas Belanger all found the back of the net.

With tough matchups coming up this week against Traverse City West and Traverse City Central, Storch is hoping the Wildcats can improve their finishing, knowing they’ll likely pay the price if they don’t.

“We have to have the ability to finish against good quality opponents,” Storch said. “Until we can do that we’re going do be clawing back out of holes that we’ve manufactured.”

James Andersen can be reached via email at sports@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5694. Follow James on Twitter @ja_alpenanews.

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2017 Huron Shores Tournament Scores

Alpena 2, Kalkaska 1

Gabriel Richard 8, Sault Ste. Marie 0

Benzie Central 3, Sault Ste. Marie 2

Kalkaska 2, Cheboygan 0

Alpena 8, Cheboygan 0

Gabriel Richard 6, Benzie Central 0

3rd Place Game–Sault Ste. Marie 3, Cheboygan 0

2nd Place Game–Kalkaska 4, Benzie Central 1

Championship–Gabriel Richard 2, Alpena 0