All down to the last game

Photo+courtesy+of+NMU+Athletics%0ANMU+senior+forward+Sam+Popp+launches+a+ball+downfield+as+freshman+midfielder+Kaffie+Kurz+%2813%29+looks+on.

Photo courtesy of NMU Athletics NMU senior forward Sam Popp launches a ball downfield as freshman midfielder Kaffie Kurz (13) looks on.

Nate Bellville

The Northern Michigan
University Men’s Soccer team
salvaged a split on their recent
road trip. They lost to the Purdue
Northwest University (PNW)
Pride 2-1 and fought to a 2-2 draw
against the Davenport University
Panthers.

Despite the mixed results, the
Wildcats were able to clinch
either a third or fourth seed in the
upcoming GLIAC playoffs.
“Last year we crawled in on the
last weekend. This year, we have
our opportunity to host a game,”
head coach David Poggi said.
“We had our opportunity to host
the whole tournament or earn a
first-round bye finishing in the top
two, but we’re satisfied with what
we’ll get.”

Team captain and senior
defenseman Kevin Hoof said
their goal was the playoffs at the
beginning of the season.
“We made the playoffs and
that’s all that matters,” Hoof said.
“Now we have our opportunity to
host our first game, if we do well
in our game this weekend.”
Friday’s game at PNW started
off slow with neither team
recording a shot attempted for
on-goal in the first 30 minutes.
At the 31st-minute mark, PNW’s
Enrique Serna scored to get
the Pride on the board. Purdue
Northwest was able to smother
NMU’s offense as the Wildcats
ended the first half trailing by
a goal.

In the second half, the Wildcats
turned up the pace as sophomore
Luca Lippert attempted NMU’s
first shot-on-goal in the 47th
minute. The game would be tied
after the Pride sent the ball into
their own goal.

Sophomore Ben Hoffman

recorded the team’s second shot-
on-goal, but PNW would break

the tie in the 80th minute from a

goal by Felix Guenzel to defeat the
Wildcats 2-1. Purdue Northwest
would clinch a home-field spot in
the quarterfinal in the process.

The Wildcats only needed one
point to clinch a playoff spot if
Northwood were able to defeat
Davenport on Friday. NMU
clinched the spot as the Panthers
fell to the Northwood 2-1.
Davenport got on the board
first on Sunday, scoring in the
30th minute on a goal from
Matt Whalen. The Wildcats
offense picked up the pace
with five straight shots-on-goal,
but the Panther defense stood
tall, blocking key shots from
an aggressive NMU offense.
Davenport took the 1-0 lead into
the intermission.

Senior forward Sam Popp
continues his impressive season
in the second half as he scored in
a free kick to tie the game at one
in the 52nd minute. In the 59th
minute, junior defender Lewis
Murray had a shot saved but
Popp took the rebound to score
his tenth goal of the season to
help NMU take the lead 2-1.
The Panthers, however, had
other plans. Davenport scored in
the 76th minute to tie the game
at 2-2 and eventually forced an
overtime session.

Both teams attempted two
shots-on-goal, but could not find
the back of the net as NMU
played its way to their fifth draw
of the season.

Freshman goalkeeper Valentin
Kliebe was strong in net once
again, accounting for eight saves

moving his season total to 60. He
now has the second-best ratings
for season saves, save percentage
and goals-against-average in the
GLIAC.

Poggi said the team is always in
a battle trying to close out some
games.

“We have not been in that
position, such as when you run in
a race and you take the lead and
you don’t give it up, that’s your
style of play,” Poggi said. “Or
if you’re a guy that starts in the
back, you have your big kick at
the end there.”

NMU’s final regular season
game is this Friday, Oct. 26,
against the Northwood University
Timberwolves in Midland.

Three weeks ago, when the
two teams last met, NMU lost
2-1. If the Wildcats defeat the
Timberwolves, they will finish
third in the standings and host a
playoff game at the NMU Soccer
Fields.

“It would be extremely special,
especially for me and the other
three seniors as well,” Hoof said.
“Going out, it would be fantastic
for us to host a [playoff] game on
our home field.”

The Wildcats have not defeated
Northwood in their team history,
but Hoof believes they’re up for
the challenge.

“We’ve always wanted to beat
Northwood,” Hoof said. “I think
that we are the better team. We
showed it the last time we played

them. We outshot them, we out-
possessed them, but we just simply

didn’t finish those opportunities.”