The Alpena girls soccer team couldn't pull off a win on Senior Night against top seeded Traverse City West in a 5-0 loss that reinforced much of what coach Tim Storch has been saying all season, while giving him some room to praise a team that has shown many positive signs throughout a tough year.
"First of all, I have to say I'm extremely proud of the effort the girls put forth tonight, they played hard and had a lot of tenacity against a tough team, but the brutal truth is we don't have enough horses and the horses we do have run of gas too soon and leave us out gunned," Storch said.
The Titans put a lot of early pressure on the Wildcats (5-12, 2-9 Big North) offensively, throwing up three shots in the first six minutes against keeper Carley Hoeksema, who continued to provide excellent defense on the net. She easily stopped all rolling shots and covered the ball in tight shooting situations.
News photo by Eric Benac
Alpena’s Emily Duncan (21) fights for possession with Traverse City West’s Jessica Kalbfleisch (7) during a girls soccer game on Thursday at Wildcat Stadium. Alpena lost 5-0.
Rieke Hoffner had some breakaway chances early on for Alpena, but was continually snuffed by Titans' tough defense.
The Wildcats had their own dual defensive attack in the play of Emily Duncan and Alex Przewozniak, who continually broke up West offensive plays that could have otherwise turned into scoring situations. Hannah Fitch and Anneliese Mathia also showed solid defensive instincts and did solid work getting the ball out of Titans territory.
All this defensive work was stymied by the Wildcats continued offensive struggle. There were a few key moments of breakaway chances, but overall the offense was ineffective in setting up solid offensive plays.
All that offensive pressure hit hard 15 minutes in when Chloe Slack gave the Titans a 1-0 lead which they kept the rest of the half. In spite of being down, the Wildcats were far from out and had played consistent, tough soccer against the Titans in the first half.
"We showed tonight that we can play with the best teams in the conference for extended periods of time and play at their level. But this is an 80-minute game, not 40 or 60," Storch said.
Alpena continued to hold strong defensively in the second half, but the overworked defensive players began to get tired and frustrated leading to a penalty six minutes into the half. Jessica Kalbfleisch nailed the penalty kick put West up 2-0.
Many of the replacement defensive players struggled to find their spot on the field and ended up chasing the ball instead of cutting off key offensive angels. Continued Hoeksema success in net helped keep Alpena in the game, but too much pressure was put on her over down the stretch.
Starting with 14:12 left to play, the Titans scored three times in seven minutes with Kiley Kreple getting the first and Kalbfleisch picking up a hat trick with the other two.
The Wildcats didn't hang their heads in defeat, however. Solid offensive drives showed a determined Alpena team that weren't going to give up without a fight.
"I saw a lot of encouraging things out on the field tonight and I couldn't be happier with their continued improvement throughout the season. But until we close the gap with talent, numbers and soccer acumen, we're going to continue chasing the other teams in the league," Storch said.
Graduating seniors for the Wildcats include Natalie Nowakowski, Hoffner, Sarah Swider, Ellie Siegert, Alicia Oliver, Chris Trafelet, Mychi Shumaker, Duncan and Przewozniak who were all honored during the game.
The Wildcats host the first round of districts on May 28 against Traverse City Central.
Eric Benac can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5690. Follow Eric on Twitter @EricBenac.