MARQUETTE, Mich. - The Northern Michigan University soccer team looks to improve from last year’s 11-9-1 overall slate and its 7-6-1 mark in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC), which was good for fifth in the conference. NMU lost to Ferris State in the GLIAC Tournament (0-2). Three of NMU’s top four scorers from last year are gone. The ‘Cats will rely on some of the freshmen to mix in with the veterans to step up and contribute right away.
“We have a lot of good freshmen and a lot of good returners,” said Matt Granstrand, now entering his sixth year at NMU. Granstrand is the all-time winningest coach in NMU history with a 56-29-6 record. “It should be an exciting year. I think we are in good shape,” said Granstrand.
Last year’s leading scorer, Kari Buckel, returns. She tallied 11 goals for the 2008 campaign. The next three scorers from last year are not returning. Brittany Buchanan (three goals), Casey Wilcox (two goals) and Meghan Sarna (two goals) represented seven goals which will not be back. The top four scorers represented 18 of the 25 goals scored last year.
Goalkeeping should be in good hands with the return of Kara Music. Last year Music was 11-9-1 with a 0.99 goal-against average and a .824 save-percentage. She added to her shutout total with five last year. Music’s name is already tops on the NMU career list for wins (37) and shutouts (18).
Other returning goals scorers for the ‘Cats include Dana Stephens (two goals), Ashley DeKeyser (one goal) and Celia Sturos (one goal). According to Granstrand he expects big things from Buckel, Joanna Kiilunen, Emily Lockery and Sturos. “It is a good core group,” said Granstrand. Some of the freshmen who could contribute this season include Amelia Johnson, Rebekah Schmidt and Brekelle Sellers.
For the last couple of seasons the ‘Cats have seemed to be on the bubble to get into the NCAA Division II Tournament. “We play a very tough schedule,” said Granstrand. “Our goal is semifinals and then finals of the GLIAC and then the NCAA Division II Tournament.” The ‘Cats open up on the road this season with four straight against St. Joseph’s (Aug. 28), Indianapolis (Aug. 30), Concordia-St. Paul (Sept. 5) and Minnesota-Duluth (Sept. 7). The first home tilt on the new and improved field will be against Ashland Sept. 13.
Other home games include Saginaw Valley State (Sept. 25), Northwood (Sept. 27), Grand Valley State (Oct. 9), Ferris State (Oct. 11), Findlay (Oct. 23) and Tiffin (Oct. 25).
NMU has all the tools to make a good run for one of the top spots of the GLIAC and a trip to the NCAA Division II Tournament. The pieces are going to have to fit just right for this to happen.
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