New opponents added for NMU soccer in 2014

Lauren Lee

The soccer team is kicking off their season this week against two Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference opponents in St. Cloud State and Winona College.

NMU was picked sixth in the GLIAC in a recent poll voted on by the 13 GLIAC head coaches. Last season, the Wildcats ended the year with a conference record 5-4-3, and 5-10-3 overall, finishing in sixth place in the GLIAC. (NW File Photo)
NMU was picked sixth in the GLIAC in a recent poll voted on by the 13 GLIAC head coaches. Last season, the Wildcats ended the year with a conference record 5-4-3, and 5-10-3 overall, finishing in sixth place in the GLIAC. (NW File Photo)

Head coach Matt Granstrand said the team is working well together in practice as the season approaches.

“I think we will blend together really well,” Granstrand said. “We have a deeply talented team that’s working hard to earn spots and make this a better team.”

The ’Cats will open this weekend against two opponents they did not face last season, in St. Cloud State at 5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 5 and Winona State at noon Sunday, Sept. 12.

In their first game against the St. Cloud State Huskies, the ’Cats will be up against senior goalkeeper Brittany Plomdon, who started in all 18 games last season with the Huskies, earned three shutouts and recorded 113 saves overall. St. Cloud placed ninth out of 16 in the NSIC last season.

In the second game, the ’Cats will face Winona State, who placed 23rd in the NSCAA preseason poll.

Senior midfielder Aliana Kneheld held Winona State’s record for most goals last season, scoring five goals along with eight assists and set an NSIC Tournament record with four assists against Augustana College.

Sophomore forward Carmen Villarruel said she sees a high skill level from newcomers, as well.

“I think this year’s team is really talented,” Villarruel said. “All the freshmen came in ready to work and they fit in well with us.”

Villarruel is playing her second year at forward and midfield position. After playing in all 18 games last season and starting in 11, she finished third in goals for the team, scoring seven goals.

This season, nine of the Wildcats’ 25 players will be freshmen.

Granstrand said the team doesn’t seem to be made up of freshmen, because the athletes are very mature.

“I think we will blend together really well,” Granstrand said. “We’re still trying to figure out how we’re going to play, we have a lot of talent and we are just trying to still learn what suits the players we have best. It’ll take a couple real games to even get done sorting that out.”

In 2013, the Wildcats finished sixth in the GLIAC conference with an 18-12 record.

 Junior defenseman Hailey Beyrand said the team can build off last season’s accomplishments.

“We have some good freshmen in the back line helping out a lot,” Beyrand said. “It’ll be different once we start playing together more. I think we can compete in this league, and I think we can take another step on last year’s success. We have a good chance in going far into the GLIAC tournaments.”

Beyrand scored five goals for the Wildcats last season.

Granstrand said the team will have to work hard to compete in the GLIAC against some of the top conferences in the country.

“You have to show up every day and play hard from the beginning,” Granstrand said. “Our goal would be to finish in the top four which is a challenge. We are working our way back to the top. I like this team, it’s a young team, but we are making our way through the little struggles, and we’ll be ready to compete.”