Women’s Soccer debuts season with UWGB exhibition

QUITE+AN+OPENING+TEST%E2%80%94The+NMU+Women%27s+Soccer+celebrates+a+goal.+The+%27Cats+will+have+almost+two+weeks+of+practice+and+a+scrimmage+under+their+belts+when+they+square+off+with+Division+I+UWGB+in+an+exhibition+match+on+Friday%2C+Aug.+27.+Photo+courtesy+of+NMU+Athletics.

QUITE AN OPENING TEST—The NMU Women’s Soccer celebrates a goal. The ‘Cats will have almost two weeks of practice and a scrimmage under their belts when they square off with Division I UWGB in an exhibition match on Friday, Aug. 27. Photo courtesy of NMU Athletics.

Travis Nelson, Sports Editor

A surprise to many, the NMU Women’s Soccer team turned a lot of heads last season by making it to the GLIAC Tournament Championship. Despite falling short in that championship game, the Wildcats had eight victories in a shortened season the program had only nine victories in the two previous years with a full schedule.

The ‘Cats won’t have to wait long to try and make their mark in 2021, as they take the road on Friday, Aug. 27 against the Division I University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Phoenix. Northern will use its newfound confidence from a year ago and bring that with them in this tall task of a match.

“We’re really excited as a team, we came off a really good season and they [UWGB] are going to be really good. I mean we’re D2, they are D1 so it should be like that,” senior defender Natalie Stampfly said. “But I actually think that we have a really good shot and it will show us what we need to work on.”

In her four years with the team, Stampfly thinks this is the most prepared that the ‘Cats have looked in the preseason, she said. Practice had just begun on Monday, Aug. 16, so it is a quick turnaround to the exhibition match and the fast-approaching regular season. This season will create some normalcy with a return to the schedule length everyone is used to. 

“I think it is good that we can look at exactly what we are working for and kind of see the games on the schedule and know what is coming,” senior midfielder Caroline Halonen said. “And just kind of being able to prepare ourselves the best we can.”

Preparation has been an important part of early-season practices, and the best way to prepare for the season to start is to play, Assistant Coach Darian Powell said. Scrimmages in practice lead to a competitive atmosphere, she added.

“We play a lot, playing is the best way to get into shape obviously. We do not like to do just plain fitness, we like to play,” Powell said. “We have a decent sized squad so we’re able to go full 11-on-11 a lot. We think that’s the best way to prepare.”

There was excitement in the air at the conclusion of the practice, but it’s just about playing the sport of soccer for this team. These women played soccer for most of their lives, but even now with the pandemic ongoing, being able to practice and play has b

“I think everyone’s been a lot more grateful to be out here knowing that it can all just be taken away from you at any moment,” Stampfly said.

NMU played like a team that was grateful down the stretch of last season and has been a program that’s played the underdog role as of late. However, this year looks to be different, as last year’s winning streak has received some attention. 

“We’re not under the radar anymore, we kind of have a target on our back,” Powell said. “People are going to be ready for us so we just have to be that much more prepared and work that much harder to be ready.”

Being the underdog against UWGB in Friday’s exhibition won’t be anything new for the ‘Cats. However, that is a label that isn’t looking to stay long anymore for this program.