Gielczyk: Elk Rapids Looks to Overcome Injuries as Postseason Looms
The Elk Rapids girls soccer team has struggled with injuries this season, and it’s shown up in the Elks’ record which after Thursday night’s 2-2 tie with Harbor Springs, placing Elk Rapids at 10-5-2 and 7-3-2 in the Lake Michigan Conference.
The Elks came into Thursday’s game looking to lock up second place in the conference. Boyne City clinched the top spot and everyone else is fighting over second place.
Which isn’t as harsh as that sounds.
Playing with something at stake at the end of the season with the MHSAA playoffs looming on the horizon, which has been where the Elks have traditionally shined.
In the first game of the season Elk Rapids lost a senior striker and a senior outside mid.
An omen of things to come for the Elks, unfortunately.
Elk Rapids lost another forward four fifths of the way through the season, although the Elks did get their outside mid back two games ago, but not at full strength.
The senior striker was scheduled to return for the Harbor Springs game.
“It’s been a little bit of a long season, when you lost three offensive players that have experience,” Elk Rapids coach Andrea Krakow said.
Olivia Travis was one of the Elks’ leading goal scorers last year was hurt in the Gaylord game at the beginning of the season, as was outside mid Amanda Trierweiler. Trierweiler is back.
Sophomore Adrian Noecker had scored a few goals before being sidelined with a badly sprained ankle which seems like to be taking a longer time to heal than expected.
“We are young,” Krakow said. “I have five freshmen playing up on the varsity team out of 16 players. They have all stepped up. We played Traverse City St. Francis and beat them 1-0, but I had another starter who was sick.
“The girls are playing, and playing with heart, playing with intensity.”
Elk Rapids has been involved in several close games, including a 1-0 loss to Gaylord 1-0 and a 1-0 loss to St. Francis and the Elks beat Cadillac by a 1-0 score.
Not having three offensive players in most of those games certainly was a contributing factor.
But the Elks are hoping that will start to turn around for them.
What has been consistently stout for the Elks has been their defense and the goaltending of senior Drew Antcliff. Elk Rapids has won all 10 games by shutout.
Kyla Pride has been asked to alternate between defense and offense, while seniors Abigail Riffell, Kendall Brown and Maran Huggins provide the veteran leadership on defense.
The Elks do have one freshman playing back on defense in Monika Gregorski.
“It’s great to perform well in conference, but I’ve always said I would look forward to having our season continue past the first round of districts,” Krakow said.
Elk Rapids has reached the regional finals four out of the last five years, and that carries a little more weight in Krakow’s eyes than a conference title. Which is not to say the coach wouldn’t like to win the league, but winning district and regional is bigger.
“If we make it out of our district (this year), I know regionals are going to be even tougher,” Krakow said. “I know Houghton Lake would be an opponent, and we have taken them two years in a row, and I know that would be a pretty competitive game if we met up with them.”
Greg Gielczyk is an award-winning sports columnist and sportwriter who worked a total 36 years — interrupted for an 18-month period from 1997-99 — at the Manistee News Advocate as sports editor until 2006 and is now retired. He currently is a freelance sportswriter for the Ludington Daily News. Gielczyk can be reached at email@example.com for story ideas.