Men’s soccer hungry for postseason success

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The team celebrates after scoring a goal in a game last fall. Photo courtesy of NMU athletics.

Travis Nelson

Coming into a season that had every player returning for the Northern Michigan University Men’s Soccer team, it was the first time there were high expectations for the third year program. In the beginning of the season, they were living up to these standards, ranked as 20th in the country. Then a number of injuries hit in the second half of the season and key players missed time. It was too much to overcome for the Wildcats.
NMU finished the season just below .500 at 6-6-5 and fell in the GLIAC Tournament quarterfinals 1-0 to the Northwood University Timberwolves. Coach David Poggi begins his fourth season with the ’Cats, and talked about the adversity his team had to endure last season.

“In terms of our record, we were all disappointed, we had higher aspirations than finishing .500,” Poggi said. “But there were things that were out of our control, we played with a lot of players who we weren’t expecting to see playing time and we were still competitive.”

The team gained valuable experience last year, as injuries forced more players to get playing time. Playing in a tough GLIAC conference, the Wildcats took their lumps in conference play, but they always competed at a high level.

“We played a very good schedule,” Poggi said. “We got a lot of great experience from a lot of players that probably wouldn’t have gotten that experience had we not had injuries.”

Besides staying healthy, Poggi knows there is another concern facing this 2019 squad.

“The other issue for us this year, is last year was our first group of graduating seniors,” Poggi said. “One was our leading goal scorer, another was our captain and defensive leader and two others were important role players. That experience we got from younger players last year will have hopefully prepared them to compete for those positions.”

Forward Sam Popp graduated last year as the team’s leading goal scorer with 10. Not one individual player can replace him, but NMU has a cast of players returning that will attempt to alleviate his absence. Senior midfielder Callum Olpin and redshirt junior Ben Hoffman tied last season for second most goals on the team with four each, and they will be leading the offense in 2019.

Coach Poggi knows it will take a number of things to take this year’s team over the top.

“What will make us better is the combination of the returning players, how they lead the new players that come in, how they push to improve themselves and what they do in the offseason,” Poggi said. “It will also be important for new players coming in and how much they can contribute in their first year. I’m expecting it to be really competitive.”

The men begin their season on Thursday, September 5, when they host Southern Indiana University, a nationalist quarterfinalist a season ago. Kickoff is at 4:00 p.m. at the NMU Soccer Field.