The Northern Michigan University soccer team split two hard-fought contests on the road this week, losing to No. 4 Grand Valley State University 4-0 on Friday while defeating Ferris State 3-2 on Sunday.
The Wildcats had a solid first half performance against the Lakers (6-0-1, 3-0 GLIAC), allowing only one goal by Jaleen Dinglidine at 35:24.
But in the second half, the GVSU bench took advantage of the ‘Cats, putting up three more goals by Irie Dennis (55:51), Ashley Botts (60:48) and Erin Hilbert (82:14).
For the second time this season, the Grand Valley bench had more shots, shots on goal, goals and assists than the starting line-up.
“They are ranked fourth in the country for a reason, and that reason is they have a very deep roster,” said NMU head coach Matt Granstrand. “I think we had a fantastic first half against GVSU. We gave them a solid 60 minutes, but we dropped off the last 30.”
The trip to Big Rapids to face Ferris State (1-5-1, 1-2 GLIAC) ended better for NMU. The ‘Cats drew first blood when forward Dana Stephens put a shot into the bottom right corner of the net on a cross pass from Emily Lockery at 11:58. Twenty minutes later, forward Kari Buckel sent in a rebound to make the score 2-0 at halftime.
In the second half the Bulldogs tied the score at 2-2 off goals by forwards Bri Borgman at 77:35 and Megan McCabe at 84:59. With just 10:29 left in the game, Stephens scored the game-winning goal with help from an assist by Buckel.
“Dana did a great job in timing her run behind the defense and received a quality service and finished out to win the match,” said Granstrand.
The two goals against Ferris State brought Stephens’ total to three for the season, which leads the Wildcat offensive.
“I feel like I contributed a lot to the team,” she said.
The winning goal was particularly sweet for the Wildcats, as the offense was able to beat Ferris State’s offsides trap, a defensive play to make the opposing forwards offsides. An offsides call results in a turnover.
“We have worked hard on being better at beating the offsides trap, and it showed,” said Granstrand. “The game [winning] goal was a great example of what we talked about and worked on.”
According to Stephens, timing was the key.
“We made sure we were in front of the defensive line and timed our runs so when the ball went behind the defense, we were onsides,” she explained.
Northern (4-3, 2-1 GLIAC) will need to continue the work in practice as they prepare to host rival Saginaw Valley (5-1-1, 2-0-1 GLIAC) on Friday, Sept. 25 and Northwood University (3-3-1, 0-2-1 GLIAC) on Sunday. Both games will be at home.
“We’re working hard this week because they’re both [going to be] hard games, but we are expecting to come out with wins,” said Stephens.
Friday’s match-up against the Cardinals will begin at 2 p.m. at NMU’s new outdoor soccer fields. Saturday’s game against the Timberwolves will begin at 12 p.m.