A mixed bag

Wildcats start fast, fade late in home tourney

News Photo by James Andersen Alpena defender Cassidy Beach (11) races in to stop a shot attempt by Royal Oak Shrine’s Chloe Woodbeck (22) on Alpena keeper Alex Villarreal during a Sunrise Side Soccer Challenge Cup tournament game on Saturday at Wildcat Stadium.

The Alpena High girls soccer team got off to a fast start on Saturday during its annual Sunrise Side Soccer Challenge Cup tournament at Wildcat Stadium.

But as the day wore on, fatigue set in and the Wildcats weren’t able to sustain their early momentum. Ultimately, Alpena finished 2-3-1 in six games, good for a fourth-place finish.

Novi won the tournament after going 5-0-1 on the day. Byron Center finished second at 4-2.

The Wildcats (11-8-3) started the day on a high note after earning victories over Lakeland and New Haven by scores of 1-0 and 5-0 respectively.

But Alpena’s final four games saw them go 0-3-1 with a scoreless tie against Royal Oak Shrine, a 1-0 loss to Novi, a 1-0 loss to North Muskegon and a 2-0 loss to Byron Center.

“I thought we started out the day really well,” Alpena coach Tim Storch said. “A big part of it (the slide) is our lack of fitness. We started to fade physically as the day went on. When you fade physically, you resort to playing kickball. To play soccer, you’ve got to be fit and you have to move.”

The tournament format saw each team play six 30-minute games with fifteen minute halves and a five-minute break at halftime.

This placed a premium on scoring first and scoring early. The Wildcats had no problem doing that early, but surrendered early goals in each of their losses and were forced to play catch-up.

“Giving up goals (against) what I call matador defense (isn’t good); letting people run through the middle of the field and watching corner kicks and watching people walk in (and score),” Storch said. “It’s frustrating that we weren’t able to put together a full day.”

Byron Center got ahead of Alpena early in the final game of the day for both teams. Just 47 seconds into the game, Ashley Popma scored on a header off of a corner kick. Byron Center scored again with 4:22 left in the half, converting on a rebound to go up 2-0.

Alpena managed just two shots on goal for the contest and struggled to get defensive pressure on the Bulldogs.

The Wildcats ran into the same troubles against North Muskegon after the Norsemen scored just 1:21 into the game. The Norsemen stayed on the attack and outshot Alpena 4-2 in the game. Alpena’s Kameron Schultz and Addison Marceau both had scoring chances in the second half, but weren’t able to convert.

A high arcing shot by Mollie Girard with 13:26 left was all the scoring Alpena needed against Lakeland. Lakeland’s keeper got a hand on the shot, but Girard’s strike got through with an assist from Kameron Schultz.

Alpena had several chances to add to its lead with about nine minutes to play. Schultz took a shot on net and Lakeland’s keeper couldn’t get to it. From there Girard, Alexis Pilarski and Anna Young all had open shots at the net, but couldn’t connect.

Lakeland had a few late chances but came up empty. Lakeland missed a chance on a corner kick with about 2:15 and was turned aside on a free kick in the final 30 seconds.

The Wildcats wasted no time against New Haven, building a 3-0 halftime lead after another arcing goal from Girard and a pair of goals from Kennedy Kaiser.

Alpena outshot the Rockets 15-0 and added two goals in the second half. Sarah Campbell connected on a header with 6:25 left and Emma Kelly scored in the final minute, bouncing a shot off the right post.

Novi, the top-ranked team in Division 1 and defending state champion, attacked Alpena early and scored just 53 seconds into the game. Novi added another goal with 8:01 left in the first half when Avery Fenchel outraced a pair of Alpena defenders and kicked a ball past Alpena keeper Alex Villarreal.

Young and Kaiser each had a chance for Alpena late in the half, but Novi’s keeper got to both shots, stopping Young and then denying Kaiser on a rebound. Novi then added another goal with nine minutes left in the game.

Shrine tested Villarreal a few times early and Alpena had a couple of chances, but neither team could find the back of the net. Villarreal kept things scoreless late when she stopped a free kick with about three minutes left, getting her fingertips on the ball and sending it out of play.

Other scores from the tournament included:

Novi 1, N. Muskegon 0

Novi 1, Byron Center 0

Shrine 0, Lakeland 0

N. Muskegon 1, Byron Center 0

Shrine 1, New Haven 0

N. Muskegon 2, Lakeland 0

Byron Center 3, Lakeland 1

Novi 0, Shrine 0

Byron Center 2, New Haven 0

N. Muskegon 4, New Haven 0

Novi 3, Lakeland 0

N. Muskegon 1, Shrine 0

Lakeland 2, New Haven 0

BC 1, Shrine 0

Novi 5, New Haven 0