After picking up a narrow 2-0 win over Oscoda on Monday, the Alpena soccer team was looking for a convincing win against a tough opponent in the lead-up to the playoffs. It got it last night, with a 4-1 win over Gaylord on senior night.
“This was a good win for us after Oscoda. It was important for our nine seniors to play well on seniors night and the underclassmen really stepped up tonight, too. When you get to play 21 kids on senior night, you know it was a good game,” Alpena coach Tim Storch said.
Alpena came out quickly against Gaylord, taking the ball deep into its territory over and over again. This aggressive offense paid off about seven minutes in, when Asger Nissen picked up a goal.
Nissen picked up his goal during a period of sustained play around the goal. Willie Santos Perez took a shot, that bounced back in front of Nissen’s foot. He booted it in for the score.
The second goal came only two minutes later off a corner kick to Dillon Kendziorski. The Wildcats moved into position in front of the goal before the corner. Kendziorski was right where he needed to be to boot it past goal keeper Cale Krist to give Alpena a 2-0 lead.
Kendziorski scored again seven minutes later to give Alpena a 3-0 lead. However, Storch wasn’t taking that kind of spread for granted against the Blue Devils.
“Last year, we were up 3-0 with 10 minutes to go (against Gaylord) and they came back and tied up 3-3. I’ll remember that game forever. So, being up 3-0 15 minutes into the game, I knew it wasn’t over and that we had to keep playing,” Storch said.
The Blue Devils offense began pushing deeper into Alpena territory and picked up its only goal with 6 1/2 minutes left in the half. Austin Kirby scored an unassisted goal by weaving around Alpena defenders and juking past goal keeper Gray Martin.
“This was probably our cleanest game from a mistake free standpoint. Really, we only made one mistake and that was on the goal they got. We got a little lackadaisical on the throw in and you can’t do that against a good team,” Storch said.
The second half started out more evenly between the teams. The Wildcats continued to win the ball on Gaylord throw-ins and goal kicks, but Gaylord was able to hold Alpena scoreless for 13 minutes.
With about 27 minutes left, Alpena threw in near Gaylord’s goal. Peter Guest headed the ball toward the goal where Zach Kendziorski waited. He booted it in past replacement goalie Ben Fry to extend the spread to the game final of 4-1.
“I want us to establish the level of excellence we demand of ourselves individually and collectively. We should have a certain level we want to aspire to and play at every game. If that’s good enough great, if it’s not at least we can walk off with our heads held high,” Storch said.
Alpena faces Cadillac on Thursday in its last regular season game. It starts districts against Traverse City Central on Monday at Coast Guard field in Traverse City at 6 p.m.
“Cadillac is a team we handled well last year. This year, they didn’t see us at our best, but I know that we can beat them. Same with Traverse City Central. If we play at our top level, we can beat them,” Storch said.
Eric Benac can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5690. Follow Eric on Twitter @EricBenac.