The NMU women’s soccer team opened up their season last week on a brand new playing field with a game against some of the ‘Cats own alumni. The friendly match was attended by 30 alumni and their families.
“It was good to get out there and enjoy ourselves on the new field and have a competitive but fun game,” said Emily Lockery, one of the team captains and a senior at NMU.
Lockery said the field will serve as a morale booster for the team because they now have a place to call their own.
“It’s great when you feel good about where you’re playing. It makes the season that much more exciting to play on the new beautiful field,” she said.
In regards to the team’s progression, the new field has been a welcome addition for the soccer team. Head coach Matt Granstrand said the new field is merely one step of many in the right direction, as all other teams in the region already had their own respective stadiums.
“The field is a work in progress and really for us to compete with teams in the region, it was mandatory. Our goal is to add to it every year: permanent bleachers, buildings and the like,” he said.
The field will now allow Northern to host NCAA regional games, which was something that the university could not do with the previous arrangements. Granstrand said the playing surface is great but needs time to grow stronger. Until then the team will practice on the adjacent field.
The Wildcats’ goals for this year are numerous, but mostly mirror those from last year. Granstrand said the team always sets its sights on the GLIAC Tournament, ultimately aspires to make it to the championship game. A particularly elusive goal, however, has been to make the cut for the NCAA Tournament.
“For the past three years we were the first team on the list who didn’t get in,” he said. “We’ve been right on that bubble and we’d like to break the bubble.”
Granstrand also said the GLIAC conference games during the regular season are important because they help set the tone for the tournaments and because it is one way the team is weighed by other teams. Last year the ‘Cats were 11-9-1 (7-6-1 GLIAC).
Aside from conference games, it is up to the coaches to set the schedule for the rest of the season, and Granstrand ensures the betterment of his team through selecting tough matchups for non-conference season play.
The team’s roster is comprised of key upperclassmen and several new players, Granstrand said.
He believes he has the best mix one could hope for, as there is a solid core able to help younger players bloom into their prime.
“We have great leadership and upperclassmen that have set the tone, and shown what’s expected,” Granstrand said. “And a solid younger group that has kept up with the upperclassmen.”
Granstrand believes the team’s greatest strengths are its fitness and the fact that the team has all conformed to the same style of play. He hasn’t found the team’s specific weaknesses yet, but any found will be ironed out.
“Weaknesses are hard to identify before the season and will be pointed out as the year progresses. Once they are pointed out it is then our job to fix those weaknesses and make them strengths,” he said.
As far as the Wildcat’s rivals are concerned, Granstrand said the team’s biggest rivals are turning out to be the cardinals of Saginaw Valley State University.
This year, the teams face off on Sept. 25 in Marquette.
“For whatever reason, it seems that every game we are always evenly matched with Saginaw,” Granstrand said. “Fortunately, we’ve been able to come out on top the last couple times, but we still seem to be at odds.”
The Wildcats will open their regular season on Aug. 28 with an away game against St. Joseph’s University in Indianapolis, Ind.
Wildcat fans will have their opportunity to watch a game on the new field on Sept. 13. The first home game will be against the Ashland University Eagles at 12 p.m.