HOUGHTON - In the third year of the program's existence, Michigan Tech soccer coach Michelle Jacob has committed her resources and focus to building the program's identity as an attacking one.
She wants to create a bounty of chances each game from the aggressive 4-3-3 formation the Huskies deploy, and ultimately, she wants goals. Plural.
Consider Tech's 2-0 win over Northern Michigan Monday a big step in the right direction.
Northern Michigan senior midfielder Brekelle Sellers blocks a Michigan Tech University defender from the ball during the first half of Monday’s nonconference soccer match at Sherman Field in Houghton. (Houghton Daily Mining Gazette photo by David Archambeau)
The Huskies put nine shots on target (on 21 attempts) and gave up just five (on seven attempts) to the Wildcats in a non-conference win, their first against their U.P. rivals.
"We definitely created a lot of opportunities today," Jacob said. "I knew it was just a matter of time until we put one away."
After a scoreless first half, junior midfielder Lindsey Van Rooy slammed home the winner for Tech in the 54th minute.
After a turnover around midfield, the ball cleared to Husky midfielder Janelle Riedl about 40 yards away from goal. Van Rooy immediately dashed on a diagonal run and was met with a perfectly weighted ball from Riedl past the Northern back line.
Van Rooy then calmly tucked the ball past Wildcats charging goalkeeper Shelby Conard for her third goal in two games.
"She is very good at seeing the gaps and she recognizes her teammates," Jacob said of Van Rooy. "She knows what they are going to do and she gets herself in the right spot on the end of it. She reads the play, she reads the players and then she gets herself in a great spot."
Tech continued to pour on the chances from there, putting away the finisher in the 88th minute when Amanda Whiting got her foot on the rebound of freshman Lexi Herrewig's shot off the cross bar.
It was Herrewig's fifth attempt on goal for the game, and she freed herself with a turn in the box to pick up the assist.
"She is quick, and she is able to get to balls that people don't think she is going to get to," Jacob said of Herrewig. "She creates a lot then, because she puts gets herself in a good position."
Tech kept a clean sheet for the second time of the season by holding Wildcat senior forward Amelia Johnson in check.
Johnson led Northern Michigan in shots on goal last season - finishing third on the team in points - and her pace caused Jacob to adjust her center back pairing.
Kaitlyn Boelter moved over to the middle of defense for the Huskies to help contain Johnson.
"No. 3 on Northern's team, Amelia (Johnson), she is a very good attacking player and we knew coming in that we would have to shut her down," Jacob said. "They have other players who can score, but with her speed she is the big threat. So we moved Kaitlyn (Boelter) into the middle to add a bit more speed and she handled it really well."
Freshman keeper Jenna Phelps then preserved the shutout with a leaping tip over the bar in the final minutes as Northern threw bodies forward.
Redshirt freshman Shelby Conard made seven saves for Northern.
"I think our second half performance was great," NMU coach Matt Granstrand said. "You have to play a full 90 minutes to compete and we didn't. In the first 45, we weren't awake and that's my fault. Lucky for us, Tech didn't
seem to be awake either. The first half was both teams just going through the motions."