When Skip Mukhtar accepted the position to become the coach of Grosse Pointe North’s boys and girls soccer teams, he didn’t do so with a small vision.
Mukhtar, who is in his first season as the girls coach, has big plans for the program.
He thinks a good tradition has been a part of the history of North’s program, and his aim is to re-establish it.
“With the girls, I believe tradition’s a big deal,” he said. “I believe in tradition. Six years ago, our girls team played in the state championship. I can say we’re not far away now from that point. The attitude — that’s the big thing. We need to get these girls to understand that we’re not far away. There’s pretty much like a finish line from working hard every day. You prepare for that; you get ready for that every single day.”
Senior Francesca Ciaramitaro expressed confidence in the direction she thinks the program is heading.
“We want someone who’s (going to) bring some stability in the future, and I think Skip’s going to do that,” she said. “I think he’s (going to) do great things for North. I think as the younger players get used to him this year, they get another year under their belt next year, it’ll only get better.”
A cast of veterans could go a long way toward helping with Mukhtar’s ambition for the program, and North’s roster just happens to have 15 returning players on it, including captains Chrisa Kouskoulas, Natalie Skorupski, Kim Cusmano and Ciaramitaro. Mukhtar has been pleased with the kind of leadership they have delivered.
“They’re phenomenal,” he said. “They work hard every day. They show great leadership with their communication skills. They lead by example a lot.”
In order to take the program where Mukhtar wants it to go, making it past the district round of the state tournament would be required. He has already looked ahead to see which teams the Norsemen may have to contend with in order to come away with a district title, and one is an opponent Mukhtar has come to know something about since becoming a part of North’s athletic program.
“Our goal is to prepare every day to win district,” he said. “We would have to go through (Grosse Pointe) South to do so. It’s a big rivalry in Grosse Pointe. With me being the new boys coach, I’m learning how big this rivalry is between South and North. I compared it to one of my buddies (to) Ohio State and Michigan. He’s like, ‘Come on.’ I’m like, ‘I’m not exaggerating.’ We would see them in the district championship if we take care of business, and they take care of business beforehand.”
Kouskoulas, a senior, has given some thought as to what she would like to accomplish before calling it a career at North.
“I’ve never won a district championship,” she said. “We’ve (gotten) really, really close my freshman and sophomore year, so that would be something, personally, I would love. For a program, it would be a good development.”
Cusmano shared a similar sentiment.
“We (want to) see if we can finish the season strong,” she said. “Our senior year, it would be really great to win a district title. We’ve been working for it through four years.”
Emily Armbruster, also a senior, added “I just really (want to) win a district title.”
North competes in the Macomb Area Conference Red Division, and Mukhtar believes the competition it sees in league play could help prepare his team for the postseason.
“We play in one of the toughest leagues in the state,” he said. “The big thing is, those games prepare us; they prepare us for the district.”
At press time, North was 7-6-2 overall after losing to South 4-1 May 6. Along with Utica Eisenhower, South sat atop the division with a 4-0-1 record (7-2-1 overall).
Next up for the Norsemen is a 7 p.m. May 13 in a home game against Sterling Heights Stevenson.