Wildcats’ season ends with playoff loss

Jon Young

For eight seniors it was the last game of their NMU career as the women’s soccer team lost 3-0 to the Tiffin University Dragons in the GLIAC Quarterfinal match on Tuesday. Head coach Matt Granstrand said the group brought leadership to the field.

“This year’s been one of my most enjoyable years I’ve had in a long time,” Granstrand said. “Classy group of seniors, classy group all together, but it starts and ends with your seniors. I think the success we’ve had this year is because of them, and we’re going to miss them.”

The ’Cats fell behind 1-0 in the first half and was never able to get the offense rolling as the Dragons put in two more goals to seal the win. Granstrand said the quick goal was key to the Tiffin win.

“Whoever scored first probably wins the game today, and that’s what happened,” Granstrand said. “At some point everyone but one team loses and today was our day. Tiffin came out and played a good game and we wish them luck in the semifinal game against Grand Valley.”

NMU (8-5-2 GLIAC, 10-6-3 overall) finished the season second in the GLIAC North behind Grand Valley State University. Granstrand said the team played up to its expectations.

“The GLIAC is incredibly difficult,” Granstrand said. “I think we ended up about where I thought we would be. I thought we would be in the top third of the conference, and we were.”

This group of seniors was a part of NMU’s first NCAA tournament appearance last season and the upset of then No. 1 Grand Valley State University Lakers. Senior forward Chelsea Lyons and goalie Jessica Baker have both earned GLIAC Player of the Week awards this season.

The Wildcats’ first game of the week came against rival Michigan Tech last Friday. The Huskies almost spoiled the ’Cats’ Senior Day but strong second half play and two overtimes were enough for NMU to pull off a 2-1 win. Head coach Matt Granstrand said the second-year Huskies are fast improving.

“Tech played a fantastic game, and we had to battle back to get into it,” Granstrand said. “I think the beginnings of a rivalry are starting to form, which is great.”

Tech scored at the 18:51 minute of the first half off a corner kick and held NMU off the board. The Wildcats tied the game up in the second half, but senior forward Chelsea Lyons said the team wasn’t content with a draw.

“It’s Senior Day; you don’t want to tie your Senior Day,” Lyons said. “You have eight seniors on your team. We wanted to win. So I think we came out here, and we dominated the second half and had a good play in overtime too.”

NMU controlled the pace during the second half and it finally paid off as senior midfielder Missy Mohr punched in the game-tying goal at 64:57, off an assist from Lyons. Granstrand said it was good to see Mohr have a big Senior Day.

“Missy had a great game. It’s good to see her score,” Granstrand said. “I’m proud of her as a senior captain. For her to step up today and have a big game was huge.”

In the second overtime, Lyons beat the Tech defenders with a header to herself, before drawing a foul. Tech’s mishap resulted in a penalty kick for NMU. Granstrand turned to junior defender Becky Schmidt, who hit the game winner against Grand Valley State University last season.

“Becky’s got a great strike; that’s why she takes all our set pieces and our penalty kicks,” Granstrand said. “I’m not surprised at all. That’s what she practices, that’s her job, to finish those and win the games, and she stepped up and did it today.”

The ’Cats were led in goals by Lyons, who netted seven to go along with her team leading seven assists. Freshman forward Tevun Sellers chipped in six goals, and junior forward Amelia Johnson added four goals. Senior goalkeeper Jessica Baker started all 19 games and recorded six shutouts.