The NMU women’s soccer team opened their season yesterday with a 2-1 victory against Lewis University in an exhibition.
The Wildcats (10-9-1, 7-6-1 GLIAC) are looking to rebound from the defeat during the GLIAC Championship semifinals last season.
Once again, the Wildcats find themselves in one of the toughest conferences in the country.
In his seventh season as head coach, Matt Granstrand said he will gauge the team’s ability based on the regional rankings and not necessarily the win-loss record.
“We always play one of the toughest schedules in the country every year, which makes our record not look as impressive,” Granstrand said. “But it shows how tough our record is by our regional ranking every year.”
Last year, the Wildcats finished fourth in the GLIAC, giving the Wildcats a first-round home game for the first time in team history.
Granstrand said he feels positive about the upcoming season. He said that the team this year is very close, with each member contributing throughout the entire preseason. The team is expecting every game to be close in the goal statistic.
“I think our freshmen are going to fit in really well, even though as usual with freshman it will take a little bit of time. But I do expect some to start right away,” Granstrand said.
The ’Cats have announced seniors Dana Bush, Dana Stephens and Kari Buckel as the captains for the 2010-2011 season.
Granstrand said the team lost a quality group of players and brought in a quality group of players. He also said that having athletes graduate is just part of collegiate sports.
Granstrand also said that this is not a rebuilding year; the athletes coming in will take over for those lost.
Stephens led the team in goals, points, and had a team high six game winning goals. Buckel led the team in shots taken and assists. She also chipped in one game winning goal.
Granstrand said while the captains are the designated leaders, all the seniors and juniors are expected to set a good example for their younger teammates.
“We’re only as good as our upperclassmen,” he said.
When talking with some of the team, they seem to all have one goal: to win the conference championship and get into the NCAA tournament.
Junior recruit Rosie Pruzinsky said she has high expectations for this season.
“My personal goal is to work hard to get playing time,” she said.
The team has been working vigorously for a couple weeks preparing for the upcoming season. Granstrand feels the team is fit, ready and where they should be for this time of year.
Pruzinsky said she has been working hard to condition herself to the higher level of play that is new to her, since she was recruited from the club soccer team.
“Coming into the season I had to be more fit, and also the pace of the game is a lot faster this year,” Pruzinsky said.
The first regular season game of the year is Saturday, Sept. 4 against Concordia-St. Paul who finished 8-10-3 last season.
“I’m looking forward to the first game. I’m excited to see how we do as a team,” Pruzinsky said.
The ’Cats are looking forward to another strong season, with an impressive schedule, good incoming freshmen and quality senior leadership. These will all be keys to Wildcat victories.