Tale of two games
News Sports Editor
The Alpena girls soccer team began Saturday’s Sunrise Side Soccer Challenge Cup with a bang, but ended with a thud.
The Wildcats dominated their opener against Tawas en route to a 4-1 win, but couldn’t recapture that momentum in the championship game against Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard and lost 7-0.
“There’s no question we’re getting better. The girls have worked hard and embraced the effort to play possession soccer and it’s paying dividends,” Alpena coach Tim Storch said. “It’s something we’ve got to get better at against (better) opponents.
Alpena (5-11) fell flat early against the Fighting Irish in the title game and trailed 6-0 at halftime. The Wildcats fared a little better in the final 30 minutes, but the deficit was too much to rally back from.
“We were victimized by a very slow start and uninspired play,” Storch said. “In the second half we played much better, but the damage was done.”
Despite the loss, four Alpena players-Isabelle O’Neil, Mollie Girard, Taylor Tolsdorf and Chloe Ferguson-were named to the all-tournament team.
Alpena’s flat performance in the last game was a far cry from its showing in the opener, which gave the Wildcats a win and also gave Storch his 499th career victory as a girls varsity soccer coach.
O’Neil scored two goals in the victory and Girard and Ferguson each added a goal.
Angela Reedy had a scoring chance for the Braves three minutes into the game, but the Wildcats largely controlled the game’s tempo from there. With just 4:26 gone from the game, O’Neil send the ball to the far right corner of the net and scored on a deflection to give Alpena a 1-0 lead.
With 12:40 left in the first half, Ferguson gave Alpena a 2-0 lead, scoring after a nice setup from Emma Kelly. Alpena continued to control play into the second half and went ahead 3-0 after a goal from Girard with 17:20 left. Girard sent a high shot toward the net that glanced off the fingertips of Tawas’ keeper. In her attempt to play the ball, the keeper turned as the ball hit her fingers and knocked the ball into the net.
O’Neil added her second goal with 14:37 left, scoring with a high, arching shot to the upper right corner of the goal.
Tawas’ only goal came with 7:22 left when Sofia Cabble snuck a ball past Alpena keeper Madyson Girard, who relieved Maren Winter in net for the game’s final 10 minutes.
Alpena will hope to build on Saturday’s play this week in two Big North Conference games. Alpena plays at Gaylord on Tuesday and hosts Traverse City Central on Thursday at 6 p.m.
“My job as a coach is to push the envelope and make things happen maybe a little quicker than they should,” Storch said. “We’re showing a lot of improvement and hopefully that (Storch’s 500th victory) is something to shoot for this week.”