The NMU soccer team is looking to reach the NCAA national championship tournament this season, a feat that has eluded the team thus far in its 13-year existence.
“Our goal is to reach nationals,” head coach Matt Granstrand said. “There is no magical formula, but we try to play a very competitive non-conference schedule. The trick is to get better every week and continue to do that through the conference games and tournament.”
The Wildcats have finished one spot out of qualifying for the tournament the last two years. Last year, NMU finished with a 12-5-2 overall record and ended its season with a loss to national runner-up Grand Valley State University in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) semifinals.
This year in the preseason poll, Northern Michigan is tied for third with conference newcomer Tiffin, and receiving one first place vote.
Leading the way in the conference preseason poll is Grand Valley, with the remaining seven first place votes. Saginaw Valley State University sits in second, scoring 37 points compared to the 30 points of Northern and Tiffin.
“Grand Valley is the best, and Northwood is better this year, but still the lowest,” Granstrand said. “But there is zero difference between the middle teams like Ferris, Tiffin, and us.”
The Wildcats are led this year by captains Meghan Sarna, Brittney Buchanan and Emily Lockery, who, according to Granstrand, are skillful and confident leaders. NMU has 22 players on its roster, giving much needed depth to the team. Granstrand said none of his athletes are ‘superstars’, but all quality soccer players.
“Depth is a strength of ours – [one] that we need because we will play so many games,” Granstrand said. “We have 22 players, and for us to have a successful season this year, we need 22 players to step up and have a good year.”
In addition to the new season, the ‘Cats are also going through a renovation project to build a new stadium for the soccer team.
The $100,000 project will improve drainage, irrigation, recondition the soil and add more seating.
NMU will start its season at home in the Wildcat Soccer Invitational held Aug. 30-31.