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Northern helping soccer grow in Marquette

February 13, 2011
Matt Wellens

From Colorado to Canada and all the way across the pond in Germany, they came to play soccer for Northern Michigan University.

Now the program's future comes from its next door neighbors on 1203 West Fair Avenue.

Hot off the program's first berth in the NCAA Division II soccer tournament, the Wildcats will feature four Marquette natives on its roster this fall as it attempts to build on a season that included a win over the GLIAC and 2010 national champion from Grand Valley State.

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Matt Wellens

Last week, head coach Matt Granstrand, now in his eighth season at NMU, added five to the program on National Signing Day, including goalkeeper Shelly Conard of Port Huron, midfielder and forward Ashley Katers of West De Pere, Wis., Brekelle Sellers' younger sister and forward, Tevun, of Arvada, Colo., and a pair of Marquette Senior High School Redettes - forward Haley Boroughf and defender Zoe Taylor.

Boroughf and Taylor will be reunited with Kylee St. Arnauld, a junior midfielder, and redshirt freshman Julie LeBert - whose sister Andrea played at NMU - to give the green and gold a tint of red this fall.

"I think it's wonderful," Granstrand said. "It's great to get a couple at a time and it shows that in Superiorland Soccer and high school soccer, the level is improving.

"We're not looking at just one player every so many years. Now, it's hopefully two-to-three players every year."

Two-to-three players from the U.P. was hard to imagine when Granstrand first came to Marquette in 2004. It seemed the only way he was going to build NMU into soccer power was to hit the recruiting trail hard below the Mackinaw bridge and south of the border in Wisconsin.

Some kids from Canada and Europe also seemed necessary to succeed - mimicking the NMU hockey program - but Granstrand has been able to tap into the local talent thanks to the continuing efforts of Dan LeBert at MSHS and everyone involved with the Marquette Wave and Superiorland Soccer Association.

"It's a credit to Superiorland and Dan at the high school and everyone else involved that they are producing these quality soccer players in a place that's not easy to do," Granstrand said.

"It's obviously great for me and makes it a lot easier."

As many other sports around here have learned - even basketball and football - this is a hockey town and Granstrand saw plenty of his potential recruits retire their cleats to spend more time sharpening their skates once they hit their teens.

While area soccer programs are still fighting an uphill battle in a land known more for its sheets of ice and miles of snow-covered trails rather than the yards of green pitch, fewer and fewer players are dropping out of soccer, Granstrand said.

"I see the group of young ladies who around the age of 14 would probably switch and start playing hockey or volleyball and dropping out of soccer, not dropping out of soccer as fast," Granstrand said.

"They are starting to realize that sticking with it gives them a lot of opportunities. There's definitely improvement since I came."

Much of those improvements can be attributed to Granstrand, who reached out to the soccer community within a week of arriving in Marquette.

His players, many of them who aren't from the area, conducted camps and worked with the younger generations of footballers.

Those kids in return came to NMU soccer games and the Wildcats rewarded their young fans with wins and most recently, a spot in the NCAA tournament.

Boroughf, Taylor, St. Arnauld and the LeBert sisters were in that group of youngsters on the sidelines cheering on the Wildcats. Now, they are the superstars on the pitch with a new group of young ladies idolizing them.

Marquette soccer players idolizing Marquette soccer players sounds like a potent combination to me, and one Granstrand would like to continue in the future.

"They have been there since they were eight years old," Granstrand said about the girls who once shagged balls on the sidelines during games. "Time really flies now that they will be sitting on the bench and on the field. They are not chasing balls anymore."

Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His e-mail address is



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