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A hard-fought battle

Wildcats play to 1-1 tie against Petoskey

News Photo by Jonny Zawacki Alpena’s Mollie Girard (3) sends a ball down field during the first half of a Big North Conference girls soccer game on Thursday against Petoskey at Wildcat Stadium. The Wildcats and Northmen played to a 1-1 tie.

Bad weather and sloppy field conditions continue to be the trend for the Alpena High School girls soccer team during its recent home stand.

Despite the poor conditions, Alpena (8-5-1, 2-3-1 Big North Conference) scored early, but eventually played to a 1-1 tie against Big North foe Petoskey on Thursday at Wildcat Stadium.

The Wildcats came out firing on all cylinders and the early offensive pressure led to a goal just over three minutes into the game when Anna Young outran Petoskey’s (4-3-1, 1-3-1 BNC) defense, made a move around Northmen keeper McKenzie Haas and sent a ball into a wide open net.

“We were aggressive early on and saw some things on Monday that I thought we could take advantage of and be successful at. We were successful early on and despite the muddy conditions, we knocked the ball around real well and then we kind of got away from it,” Alpena coach Tim Storch said. “I’m not real happy where our fitness level is and I think tonight it showed and certainly has showed in previous games. There’s an old quote that says ‘fatigue makes cowards of us all’ and when you get tired, it’s easy to stop running and think someone else is going to do your job. In this game, you have to have 11 people working at all times and to be playing as a unit and as we got fatigue, that was a problem on Tuesday and again tonight.”

The Wildcats held the lead at halftime thanks to some more stellar play in net from Eden Zann.

Petoskey had a pair of chances late in the half to tie the game, but Zann came up big in both spots, stopping a shot out in front with 13:26 to go in the first half and coming up big again making a save at the six-minute mark to preserve the lead.

Alpena had opportunities of its own early, but missed wide of the net on two separate occasions. After the two teams played even the rest of the opening half, Alpena saw another opportunity just miss as the Wildcats sent a shot sailing high towards the net, but Haas jumped up and got just enough of the ball to deflect it over the cross bar.

“At halftime I once again emphasized that we’re the only team in the league that we’ve either led or been tied with everyone after one half. That speaks volumes of how we’re able to compete and how we’re able to play and come out to start a game, but we’re unable to match that same intensity in the second half,” Storch said. “I thought we could have played with more intensity, but part of playing with intensity is having energy and we were lacking a lit bit of that tonight. Petoskey is a good team and we know we’re a good team and we continue to show that we can compete with anybody.”

The Northmen tied the game four minutes into the second half. Lexi Engler sent a high shot on net and the sloppy conditions may have cost Alpena in this instance as Zann appeared to jump to deflect the ball and make the save, but lost her footing and the ball ended up in the back of the net.

In spurts throughout the second half, Alpena was in control, but was unable to get a clean shot at the net. Fatigue started setting in on the Wildcats again and the home team was forced to fend off a late surge from Petoskey as both teams played to a tie.

“A one goal lead is never safe and certainly never safe on a sloppy, muddy field against a team that until Monday we’ve never had any success against. I thought after the first goal we kind of settled in and looking at the big picture, it’s nice to get a win and a tie in the same week against a team you’ve always lost to, but I’m getting a little selfish now and at this point when we were up a goal and had chances, I wanted us to put the game away,” Storch said. “Credit to Petoskey, it was a hard-fought game. We were a little thin tonight and credit to my girls who stepped in and played quality minutes. All in all, a tie is like kissing your sister, but when you’ve never had a result against someone, I guess it’s not horrible.”