MARQUETTE - For Northern Michigan University striker Taylor Smith, waiting is the hardest part.
As difficult as it is, waiting is what the Wildcat sophomore must learn to do in head coach Matt Granstrand's system of possessing and counter-attacking.
And as she learned Saturday, her patience can pay off.
Northern Michigan University freshman midfielder Gabreilla Garza brings the ball up field against Wisconsin-Superior on Saturday during the NMU spring soccer tournament inside the Superior Dome in Marquette. (Journal photo by Zach Jay)
"Up top, it is hard for me because I have to spread the field so I'm kind of just waiting while they possess," Smith said. "It takes a lot of patience because I want to jump in and play."
Smith was able to jump in on three scores as the 'Cats picked up a 6-0 victory over NCAA Division III Wisconsin-Superior and a 9-0 win over the Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario Vipers club program during the first a two-day spring soccer tournament inside the Superior Dome.
The tournament continues today with a rematch against the Vipers at 11 a.m. and a match against the NMU alumni team at 3 p.m.
"The keys are just to get back to the basics and get some confidence and get some passion and joy back into soccer," Granstrand said. "I think this is the starting point."
Saturday was the first live game action for the Wildcats since Granstrand reintroduced his possession-based, counter-attacking system at the start of the spring season.
While potent Saturday against non-GLIAC and NCAA Div. II competition, Granstrand said his team still has work to do before the fall season begins Sept. 5 at Minnesota-Duluth.
"The style we try to play is a little bit complicated," Granstrand said. "They need to think a couple plays beyond what they are used to doing. It takes time. Every game we play we get a little better at understanding it."
Granstrand shuffled his lineup in both games so everyone could get a grasp of the challenges presented at each possession.
The result was a number of strikers and a plethora of goal scorers.
Six different players scored in the opening 6-0 win over UW-Superior, but it was a frustrating start.
Smith had two breakaways foiled while freshman Helen Kiilunen and sophomore Ashley Katers both camp up empty on chances before Kiilunen scored on a well-placed shot to the left post late in the half.
Smith finally scored on a breakaway to open scoring in the second half while Katers and freshmen Hailey Beyrand, Katie Lyders-Peterson and Lola Weiss followed with goals for the final margin.
NMU jumped out to a 5-0 halftime lead against the Vipers as three Wildcats - Smith, freshman Tiffany Trembley and Beyrand - scored two goals in the win.
Freshman Gabreilla Garza, sophomore Tevun Sellers and Katers also added goals.
"This formation on purpose only really plays one true striker and a ton of midfielders," Granstrand said. "We're kind of suited to play that way.
"That's what were trying to piece together. What combination looks best with all these young players as we get ready for the fall. We have a lot of young players."
Notes: Goaltenders Siri Skogland, a freshman from Norway, and Shelby Conard, a redshirt freshman who started in the fall of 2012, both worked a half of each game, seeing minimal work. ... Agains the Vipers, NMU wore purple T-shirts in honor of teammate Arianna Alioto, who drowned in the PEIF pool on Nov. 30 during an offseason team workout. The shirts sported her No. 11 and name on the back.
Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/mattwellens.