ALPENA — The Alpena High soccer team showed improvement on Tuesday as they earned a much-needed 1-0 victory over Cadillac on Park Family Field at Wildcat Stadium.
The first time the two teams met less than a month ago, the Wildcats were on the receiving end of a 6-3 loss, which began a rough seven-game Big North Conference losing streak that was snapped on Tuesday.
“I was afraid going into the season with all we lost last year that we might go winless in the conference,” Alpena coach Tim Storch said. “We’ve gotten better and we’ve had some close games that we haven’t been able to win and we’ve made mistakes in those losses. I was pleased with what I seen tonight and, obviously, getting the win was huge. We looked a little out of sorts protecting a lead late, but we were able to hold it and that is great for our confidence and a huge learning experience for us.”
Through one half of play, the Wildcats (8-10-1, 1-7 BNC) played even with Cadillac as the two sides were scoreless at the break.
Neither team was able to muster many scoring chances throughout much of the opening half.
The Vikings applied pressure in the final seven minutes of the half and put together a flurry of scoring chances, but Alpena goalkeeper Matt Diamond stopped shots in every way possible, turning away balls off of corner kick deflections, shots from the side and straight on and turned away a pair of headers to keep the game scoreless and help the Wildcats weather the storm.
“Matt is a very good goalkeeper, and he’s gotten stronger as the year has gone on,” Storch said. “Some of the shots he stopped tonight were key.”
Alpena came out in the second half with more energy and, once again, the half began as a back-and-forth battle.
The Wildcats earned a golden scoring opportunity with 30:38 left in the game and Brett Najmowicz took advantage of a penalty kick and gave Alpena the all-important one-goal advantage.
After the goal, Cadillac was more aggressive and once again applied pressure.
Diamond and the Wildcats refused to give the Vikings the look and opportunity they needed to score the tying goal as Alpena held on for a confidence-building shutout victory over a BNC foe and opponent they will play again in the opening round of districts.
“They’re growing up, slowly but surely,” Storch said. “It’s nice beating them tonight, but beating them in districts will be even better. It’s huge for us knowing that we can beat them. I like where we are and, right now, we’re building a lot of positives for the rest of this season and beyond.”
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