The Northern Michigan soccer team split two high-scoring games at home, losing to No. 4 Grand Valley State University 4-1 on Friday and shutting out Ferris State University 8-0.
The undefeated GVSU Lakers (12-0-2, 8-0-1 GLIAC) led 3-0 at the end of the first half. Senior forward Irie Dennis put in the last goal for Grand Valley six minutes into the second half. Senior Wildcat defenseman Celia Sturos put in the only goal for the Wildcats at 74:23 and was assisted by Kari Buckel.
“I was just in their (goal box) when a GVSU defender tried to clear the ball which was crossed in,” said Sturos. “It kind of went off her wrong and I was there to get it and shoot it. The ball went in over the goalie’s head.”
Despite the loss, head coach Matt Granstrand said that playing a better team isn’t a bad experience.
“We always want to play teams like GVSU,” he said. “I think we have closed the gap on them and can compete pretty well with them now. You just can’t make any mistakes or they will capitalize on them.”
The ‘Cats turned around on Sunday and defeated the Bulldogs (1-10-2, 1-7-1 GLIAC) by a score of 8-0. Freshman Amelia Johnson was assisted by junior Dana Stephens for the first goal at 24:13. The two forwards alternated unassisted goals to give NMU a 3-0 lead at the end of the first half.
Stephens started the scoring attack in the second half, assisted by Sturos at 47:04. Stephens then assisted Buckel for her first score of the game five minutes later. Senior forward Ashley DeKeyser and Buckel put in two unassisted goals in at 57:17 and 62:48 respectively. Buckel’s second goal came off of a penalty kick. The final goal was put in by senior midfielder Emily Lockery and was assisted by senior defenseman Joanna Kiilunen at 72:20.
“I think Ferris got to see us at our best,” said Granstrand. “It was a quality performance by everyone. I think anyone that truly appreciates the game of soccer would have enjoyed that match. The possession and movement on and off the ball was fantastic as was the finishing.”
The win meant something special for the Wildcats after losing to the Bulldogs in the opening round of the GLIAC championships last year.
“We came out ready to play on Sunday,” said Lockery. “Losing to them three times last season motivates us to compete hard against them. We wanted to put them away this year.”
This was the first multi-goal game of the season for Buckel, who led the team in goals last season with 11.
“I’m not as hurt as I was at the beginning of the season, so it was nice to be back scoring again,” said Buckel. Stephens is leading the team with eight goals and two assists. Tied for second on the team with four goals a piece are Buckel and Johnson. Johnson has been optimistic about her role as a scorer on the team.
“Coming into (the season) I knew there were big shoes to fill and I’m glad I can finish some,” said Johnson. “Hopefully I can keep that up.”
This weekend the Wildcats will go on the road to visit the Saginaw Valley State University Cardinals on Friday and then to Northwood University on Sunday. NMU beat the Timberwolves 3-2 earlier this season, but lost 1-0 to the Cardinals.
“We expect to go and compete and compete well,” said Granstrand. “I think we will make a good showing and represent NMU well.”