Soccer team ready for upcoming year

Jon Young

After a 2010 season that saw the Wildcats make their first NCAA appearance and beat a Grand Valley State University team that hadn’t lost in-conference since 2006, the NMU women’s soccer team is getting ready to kick off the start of the 2011 season.

The ’Cats success last season combined with their returning talent has earned them a preseason second place ranking in the GLIAC North, behind defending National Champion GVSU.

With all the success on the field last season, head coach Matt Granstrand said the first goal is always making the GLIAC tournament, which is reserved for the top six teams.

“Our goal is to get into the GLIAC tournament for starters, which is not easy,” he said.

Granstrand had a busy offseason bringing in five freshmen. Forward Haley Boroughf and defender Zoe Taylor are both from Marquette. Goalkeeper Shelby Conard is from Port Huron, Mich., and midfielder Ashley Katers is from West DePere, Wis.

Also joining the ’Cats is forward Tevun Sellers, who is the younger sister of junior midfielder Brekelle Sellers. NMU is returning nine of 11 starters and Grandstand thinks the teams deep roster will be one the strengths this season.

“I think our biggest strength has been (that) we’re deeper,” Granstrand said. “I think in the past we’ve had 12 or 13 players that could easily start. This year we have 15 or 16 players that could or maybe should be starting. It gives us a lot of options which makes it really difficult for me and makes it a good recruiting class.”
Senior midfielder Missy Mohr said the Wildcats will also work on improving their team teamwork and try to play more as one unit.

“We’re looking to improve on the team chemistry,” Mohr said. “Last year there was a lack of team chemistry, which hurt us in the end,” Mohr said.

Northern lost two of their top offensive players last year in Dana Stephens and Kari Buckel. Granstrand said the addition of senior forward Chelsea Lyons will help ease the loss. Lyons played at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay from 2007-2010; she was all conference twice in the Horizon League and led her team in goals during the 2008 season. Lyons is also a member of the NMU women’s basketball team and led the team in scoring last season.

“We lost two great players in Dana and Kari, fantastic players who are hard to replace,” Granstrand said. “We picked up Chelsea Lyons who is a proven incredible athlete in basketball and in soccer. I think she’ll be a surprise for the other teams.”

Last seasons trip to the NCAA tournament was a first for the Wildcats as they secured a sixth seed and lost to Northern Kentucky, 4-0. The players understand what they have to do in order to make it back to the NCAA tournament, said senior goalkeeper Jessica Baker.

“To get back to the tournament, we all have to fight and push each other to the max in order to improve our game,” Baker said. “We have to want to make it back to the tournament and of course work hard for one another.”

The ’Cats first game of the season is a road match at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 1, against Minnesota-Duluth.
“We play them every year and they are a class program every single year,” Granstrand said. “It’s sort of a measuring stick if we can compete with Duluth we’re off to a good start.”

NMU returns home to host Minnesota Crookston Saturday, Sept. 3 and Bemidji State on Sunday Sept. 4. Both games start at 1 p.m. and are at the outdoor fields behind the Superior Dome.