MARQUETTE - Of the reasons Northern Michigan University soccer coach Matt Granstrand has for holding the NMU Soccer Tournament every spring, his biggest would probably be the inexperienced members of his team.
There is also the recruiting factor, since the team is given only five days of game play during the spring season, according to NCAA rules. The tournament, held in the Superior Dome in Marquette Saturday and today, makes up a good portion of the NMU spring soccer season.
"It's a combination of a lot of things," Granstrand said. "Mainly it's for our team to play and get better; recruiting is just a side benefit of it."
Northern Michigan University's Kaylagh Hollen, front, battles for the ball with a Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Vipers player in their soccer game during the NMU?Soccer Tournament at the Superior Dome in Marquette on Saturday afternoon. (Journal photo by Matt Keiser)
The tournament serves as the first two days of game play for the Wildcats' spring season, while they will travel to the University of Minnesota-Duluth in a couple weeks and will also be matching up with St. Scholastica around the same time. Granstrand also plans to play a game with the NMU club soccer team toward the end of the spring season.
The season, while limited in days and games, ultimately provides younger players with a chance to get on the field before the fall season rolls around.
"We're young, very young," he said. "Ten out of the 17 of us are freshmen. That's why we do this - because in the fall, some of them didn't play at all and some only played a little. Now it's their team though."
The Wildcats who were seniors last fall are now playing for the NMU Alumni team this weekend, allowing younger teammates to get accustomed to playing more.
"Now (the freshmen) are shaking off the upperclassmen that are gone," Granstrand said. "Now they have to step up and play. It's just a good opportunity and you can see that as they get more comfortable, it's just about getting their confidence back."
In the past, Granstrand has only recruited a handful of players through the tournament, but he still acknowledged that he looks at a number of teams and clubs, including those from Canada. On Saturday, the team played a club team from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.
"Mainly (this tournament) is for us," he said. "It lets us look at some teams, but we look at a lot of teams. What it does is it lets us take a look at good soccer that's close to us - which is Canada."
Regardless of the recruitment process, Granstrand is satisfied with the group and excited to see how they handle moving on without the eight seniors that will be leaving the team.
"There are the older girls that ran the team, they were in charge and now they're gone," he said. "They're alumni now and they're forming their own identity, so it's just fun, it's good."
Amanda Monthei can be reached at 228-2500 or at sports@miningjournal. net.