It was a big weekend for the Northern Michigan soccer team as the Wildcats clinched a home playoff game by splitting their weekend’s games.
NMU defeated the Findlay Oilers (5-9-2, 4-7-2 GLIAC) 2-0 on a wet Friday afternoon. The two teams went scoreless in the first half, but senior forward Ashley DeKeyser was able to connect on a slow moving ball into the left side of the net at 63:48.
“I had missed a few fast breaks in the first half, and this ball just played out well,” said DeKeyser. “The goalie was just a little behind this time, and I got it past her.”
Junior forward Dana Stephens was able to clinch the win on a breakaway goal in the final minute.
NMU outshot Findlay 7-3 in the second half and 16-10 for the whole game. The Wildcats also stepped up their game defending the six Oiler corner kicks, and senior goalie Kara Music had five saves.
“We knew we had to play a quality game, and we did,” said head coach Matt Granstrand. “I thought we were dangerous. Our midfielders and forwards gave us a lot of opportunities to attack, and it was fun to watch.”
However, the ‘Cats were unable to score during Sunday’s contest as they lost to the Tiffin Dragons (7-5-2, 7-4-2 GLIAC) 1-0. The lone goal of the game came off a Tiffin corner kick at 34:29.
“[Tiffin was] another quality opponent,” said Granstrand. “Whoever was going to score was going to win it. These were two evenly matched teams.”
The game against Tiffin was also Senior Day for Northern. The Wildcats have seven seniors on the team; DeKeyser, goalies Music and Dana Bush, defenders Joanna Kiilunen, Kaelah Mizzi, and Celia Sturos, and midfielder Emily Lockery. The game was very emotional for the seniors.
“It was an emotional game anyway,” said Lockery. “This was supposed to be our last home game, so our season and our careers are coming to an end. To have a loss makes it even harder.”
The Wildcats (8-8-1, 6-6-1 GLIAC) will be able to have one more home game as University of Findlay and Northwood University (7-8-1, 4-7-1 GLIAC) both lost at least one game this weekend. The ‘Cats are now locked into the fourth seed in the GLIAC and will host the fifth seeded team, which is currently Findlay. NMU will most likely face either Findlay or Northwood, but Ferris State (3-11-2, 3-8-1 GLIAC) could enter the playoff picture if they upset No. 1 Grand Valley on Saturday.
“It makes no difference to me who we play, we’re just happy to be at home,” said Granstrand. “All the teams are just as good.”
Grand Valley (15-0-2, 11-0-1 GLIAC) and Saginaw Valley (12-2-2, 9-1-2 GLIAC) are ranked first and second respectively and will receive first round byes. Tiffin is seeded in the third spot and will also host a quarterfinal game.
The only team officially eliminated from playoff contention is Ashland (3-12-3, 0-11-2 GLIAC).
The game will be the first playoff game ever held at Northern, and the team is excited about it.
“It feels great,” said Granstrand. “It’s a first for us. It’s so much easier for us to be at home than on the road. We would love to have a big crowd; the team has deserved it.”
The final regular season game is at Ashland on Oct. 31. Ashland has not won a game since Sept. 6. NMU defeated the Eagles 5-0 in the first conference game of the season in Marquette.
“Ashland might have been an easier game at the beginning of the season, but they’ve had some close games so it should be another good game for us,” said Kiilunen.