Cats gear up after team visits Europe

Katie Bultman

The Women's soccer team entered a tournament in Europe, where they spent eight of the final days for summer preparing for the fall 2013 season. (Photo by: Anthony Viola)
The Women’s soccer team entered a tournament in Europe, where they spent eight of the final days for summer preparing for the fall 2013 season. (Photo by: Anthony Viola)

The women’s soccer team returned home from Europe last week after spending eight days overseas.

Head coach Matt Granstrand said the ’Cats worked hard the past year and a half in order to fundraise enough money to get the team over to Europe for some pre-season tournament play.

“We fundraised all of the money ourselves and the school did not pay for it,” Granstrand said. “It went great and it was really a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

The team spent time in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany over the course of the trip, in which the main purpose was to compete in a soccer tournament that would prepare the women for the upcoming 2013 soccer season.

The team said the trip was a great opportunity for advancement in competition, as well as a chance for the team to bond as a whole and get to know the newest recruited members.

Senior defender Kaylagh Hollen said the team had a very enjoyable time overseas and really improved after being introduced to a game with a very intense speed.

“As far as soccer goes, they’re much better over there,” Hollen said. “The play of the game is much faster and the players are very fit.”

The coaching staff also said the team was introduced to a competitive edge that the Wildcats were not used to when participating in the tournament.

Assistant coach and former player Brittany Buckingham said the trip overseas gave the ’Cats more experience to bring home to the field.

“[Going overseas] is a lot of fun, and the competition is way higher than what we have experienced in the States,” Buckingham said. “It’s good for the girls. We were the only team from the States and it definitely helped them to improve.”

Granstrand said the team had more losses than wins in the tournament, but the opportunity was the reward in the end.

The ’Cats played six different teams while overseas, giving Northern Michigan University several chances to see different playing styles.

Coaches and players alike said many of the teams overseas offered competition that they are not familiar with at home in the GLIAC.

Coaches and players also said the opportunity provided team bonding time that helped the women form a closer group, and allowed new members to become acquainted with the squad. The ’Cats introduce a young squad for the 2013 season, returning only three seniors in a group that dealt with injuries for much of the 2012 season.

Junior defender Heather Amr said the team trip to Europe helped the Wildcats bring back valuable competitiveness in order to improve in the upcoming games, in addition to the competitive edge that the newest members will bring.

“We’re going to look more fit and more confident,” Amr said. “The freshmen came in, in shape, competitive and wanting to play at a competitive level.”

Granstrand, whose assistant coach also happens to be his wife, Jennifer Granstrand, said the team is looking good and starting the year off right.

“I like where we are,” Matt Granstrand said. “I think we are all expecting to have a better year. Working on things is game by game and starting off with five games in 10 days, everybody has to be ready. We are looking forward to getting started.”

Team members said they have become accustomed to having a husband-wife duo for a coaching staff. A couple players also noted how the coaches bring differing opinions to the field, which gives the team a broader scale of tactics.

“We definitely have differing viewpoints on some things,” Jennifer Granstrand said. “However, he’s the head coach. It’s good and it’s bad because I do know him so well.”

Jennifer Granstrand, who played at the competitive soccer level as well, came off of a Division I soccer career at Vanderbilt. Matt Granstrand said her experience on the soccer field is a great tool to have in an assistant coach.

“I didn’t hire her because she’s my wife,” Matt Granstrand said. “She knows the game very well and from the female perspective she is probably the most qualified individual within the area. She’s not afraid to give me her opinion, which is great.”

The team kicks off the season with an exhibition game at noon on Sunday, Sept. 1 at the NMU soccer fields.

“It should be a lot of fun this year,” Jennifer Granstrand said. “Last year was kind of rough on everybody in more ways than one, but (with the experience from the trip to Europe) our speed of play has gotten better, moving the ball, reacting to the ball and reacting to play has gotten better. It will come in handy when we play some of the faster teams.”

The Women's soccer team entered a tournament in Europe, where they spent eight of the final days for summer preparing for the fall 2013 season. (Photo by: Anthony Viola)
The Women’s soccer team entered a tournament in Europe, where they spent eight of the final days for summer preparing for the fall 2013 season. (Photo by: Anthony Viola)