The NMU women’s varsity soccer team made its first ever NCAA tournament appearance on Friday, Nov. 12 against the Northern Kentucky Norse in Kenosha, Wis., where the Wildcats were defeated in a shutout
The Norse put up four goals in the second half to come away with a 4-0 victory. The ’Cats (8-4-3 GLIAC, 9-6-5 overall) held the Norse scoreless in the first half. Head coach Matt Granstrand said he thought Northern Kentucky was a good team, but wasn’t overly impressed by his team’s first half performance.
“You know they’re a quality team,” Granstrand said. “It’s funny, I don’t think we played a particularly good first half but it was zero to zero.”
The Norse took the lead early in the second half when Hannah Wissel scored at 45:14. The ’Cats battled and kept it a one-goal game until Amanda Watson scored a header at 65:19. The Norse scored again at 69:55 and 79:58 to go up 4-0. Despite giving up four goals in the second, Granstrand was impressed with the Wildcats play.
“Second half we played great, and every chance they had they scored,” Granstrand said. “I thought the second half performance was really good.”
For the four seniors on the team it was their last gameplaying for the Wildcats. Goalkeeper Dana Bush, defenseman Anne Speers, and forwards Dana Stephens and Kari Buckel helped lead the team to their first NCAA tournament appearance, and helped earn a 1-0 overtime victory against Grand Valley for the first time since 2001.
“It’s a special group. They’re classy people on and off the field,” Granstrand said. “Our success this year was based on their leadership, and we’re definitely going to miss them.”
The success on the field for the Wildcats earned four players all conference awards. Sophomore goalkeeper Jessica Baker was rewarded first team all-conference, while forwards Amelia Johnson, Kari Buckel and Dana Stephens all made second team all-conference. The Wildcats ended up in second place in the GLIAC North Division, and were the only team to knock off Grand Valley in conference play since 2006. Buckel said she was happy to end her career on a strong note.
“I want to say thanks to the entire team, especially the underclassmen for coming in and being a huge part of the success,” Buckel said. “It was huge making records my senior year and ending my career with so much success.”
Dana Stephens led the team in goals with 11, Amelia Johnson had nine and Kari Buckel finished with five. Those three also led the team in points with 24, 18 and 16 respectively. Buckel led the team in assists with six.
Next year’s team looks to build off the success of this season. The ’Cats are returning most of their starters and hope to make it back to the NCAA tournament.
However, Granstrand said the team is not content with only making the tournament cut.
“Next year’s goal is to repeat what we did this year and hopefully win a game or two in the NCAA tournament,” Granstrand said.
He also said that due to the low number of seniors, the team will return with some of its former strength.
“We had a very young team this year so I would expect next year to be a really good year as well,” he said.