Alpena Wildcats shut out Sault Ste. Marie Blue Devils
Alpena boys soccer head coach Tim Storch continues to find out more about his team each day.
After suffering their first loss of the season earlier in the week, Storch was anxious to see how his Wildcats would respond.
Alpena bounced back in a big way on Friday by shutting out Sault Ste. Marie at Park Family Field at Wildcat Stadium, defeating the Blue Devils 4-0 to improve to 4-1-1 on the season.
“We’re still feeling our way through this,” Storch said. “Any time you graduate the players that we did, you have to learn the new players. These guys, I’m learning them, they’re learning me, and I’m trying to find where they best perform and how we best perform as a unit of 11. I’m figuring some things out, but there’s still some tweaking to be done, but we’re getting better. There’s bits and pieces that you look at that are pretty good like our defense. We’re going to see tougher competition moving forward and we have to do a better job finishing.”
Alpena was able to finish and find the back of the net four times as four different Wildcats scored in the victory.
The Wildcats wasted little time taking an early lead as Abraham Brege took advantage of the Blue Devils inability to clear the ball in front of their net and Brege snuck one past Sault keeper Blaise Brzuchalski to put Alpena on top just over two minutes into the contest.
Seven minutes later, the Wildcats added a second goal, this time off of a beauty of a shot from way out as Andrew Dargis found the back of the net.
“We had 14 shots and missed a penalty kick, so we do have to be able to finish better than what we did tonight,” Storch said. “It’s something that is going to be worked on and hopefully improved on. I said at halftime, I don’t think I’ve ever led by two goals at the half and both goals came from center defenders in the flow of the game. Sometimes, it will happen on corner kicks, but for both center defenders to score in the flow of the game going forward with shots from fair distances speaks volumes from what they’re doing.”
Alpena maintained the pressure early in the first half, which resulted in a pair of goals.
The Wildcats had another good scoring chance with 13 minutes left in the half on another long shot, but Brzuchalski was able to get a hand on the ball and deflect it over the net.
The Blue Devils made a valiant attempt to cut into the lead in the final minute of the half, but Matt Diamond made a save on free kick and, seconds later, Diamond was bailed out by Brege, who stopped a ball from going in that had slipped past Diamond as the Wildcats held a two-goal advantage at the half.
Alpena added two more goals in the second half, the first of which came midway through the half as Mike Clark found the back of the net to extend the lead to three and then, with 13:52 to play, Cam Young scored the final goal as he received a perfect pass and redirected the ball to the corner of the net and by Brzuchalski.
“I thought Cam Young was really our player of the game,” Storch said. “Austin Townsend played very well, too. The other guys were solid, but I really thought those two stepped up their game.”
Mason Bray relieved Diamond in net for the second half and made a few key saves and caught a break towards the end of the game to preserve the shutout.
The Wildcats hope to continue their nice start to the season on Wednesday when they host Tawas.
“It’s huge to get off to a strong start,” Storch said. “The big part of this is these kids getting confidence early on playing at the varsity level, and it’s nice when you get some wins under your belt. I’d love to have that tie game back. I think that’s one that we certainly should have had a victory, and maybe we’ll get another chance at Ogemaw.”
He said the team’s 4-1-1 record “is not bad, especially with a new crew, but I want them to get confidence, because they’re going to need confidence going into Big North Conference play.”