Women’s Soccer kicks off season against defending champs Grand Valley State

WILDCATS+HIT+THE+ROAD%E2%80%94NMU+Womens+Soccer+Head+Coach+Jon+Sandoval+%28left%29+is+in+his+first+season+after+assistant+coaching+the+Mens+team+under+Head+Coach+David+Poggi+%28right%29.+Sandovals+first+game+as+Womens+coach+will+come+on+the+road+against+Grand+Valley+State.+Photo+courtesy+of+NMU+Athletics.

WILDCATS HIT THE ROAD—NMU Women’s Soccer Head Coach Jon Sandoval (left) is in his first season after assistant coaching the Men’s team under Head Coach David Poggi (right). Sandoval’s first game as Women’s coach will come on the road against Grand Valley State. Photo courtesy of NMU Athletics.

Travis Nelson

The NMU Women’s Soccer team begins its late-starting 2021 campaign on Friday, March 19 on the road against the 2019 national champion Grand Valley State Lakers.

NMU is in a rebuilding period during the pandemic with first-year coach Jon Sandoval, and the Wildcats will have a tall task to start the year. In the GLIAC preseason poll, the ‘Cats were ranked to finish ninth out of 10 teams in the conference. It could become accurate based on what NMU is working with trying to implement a new system during these problematic times, but Sandoval puts emphasis that he doesn’t necessarily agree with his team’s positioning in this poll.

“I do [look at polls] … I think that every coach does. Every coach does, they may give you the typical answer, ‘well we don’t put much stock into those polls’. But if you come in at ninth it’s going to tick that coach a little bit, so that’s how we feel about our current last poll,” Sandoval said. “Coming at ninth, I thought it was a little harsh given the circumstances and then also really given how we finished last year compared to some other teams. We’re using it as fuel right now.”

NMU will need more than fuel to travel down to Allendale and get a win over GVSU on Friday. The Lakers went 25-1 in 2019 en route to winning the national title. These two teams met twice in 2019, with Grand Valley completing the sweep with a 5-0 regular-season win and a 5-1 victory in the GLIAC Tournament Quarterfinals. Under Sandoval, the Wildcats are hoping to be a different team this season, and they will have the challenge to see how much their work since August has paid off, Sandoval said.

“Everything that they are [Grand Valley State] kind of speaks for itself, defending national champions, they’re ranked pretty much one or three in every statistical category in 2019. They are returning 10 of their starters from that championship team, so it’s not going to be an easy task,” Sandoval said. “What I do believe it is, is a huge opportunity and a great experience for our newcoming players to come in and get a gauge for how competitive it is in this conference.”

The “huge opportunity” for NMU is coming up fast against GVSU on Friday, March 19 at 4 p.m.