MARQUETTE - Upon their return from a preseason tour of Europe, members of the Northern Michigan University soccer team said they felt recharged and refreshed with no symptoms of jet leg heading into their first week of classes.
The same could not be said for the Wildcats after making a 500-mile bus trip to Duluth, Minn. on Thursday, at least according to head coach Matt Granstrand.
"You don't show up and play, you lose," Granstrand said following the 'Cats 1-0 home loss to Minnesota-Crookston on Saturday. "That's my thoughts on the game.
Northern?Michigan University freshman Paula Hafner goes up for a header in Minnesota-Crookston territory among a crowd of Golden Eagle defenders on Saturday at the NMU Soccer Field in?Marquette. (Journal photo by Matt Wellens)
"It looked like we were tired from the Duluth game. I think the trip and playing carried over. I think we let a team that's not a bad team stay in the game. When you let them stay in the game, they get confidence. If you don't score an early goal, they stick around and that's what happened."
The Golden Eagles scored with 25 seconds left on the clock to drop Northern to 0-2 and spoil the Wildcats' 2013 regular-season home debut, which came less than 48 hours after a 2-1 loss on the road to Minnesota Duluth to start the regular season.
The Eagles were credited with six total shots and five on goal, but according to Granstrand, there was really only the one that Crookston's Nikki Hammond buried following a long pass from teammate Rachel Halligan in the game's 90th minute.
"They have one shot on goal, and they score it. It's confusing to me. It's frustrating," Granstrand said.
"I think we played great at Duluth, but today showed that we're so hit and miss. That's me. That's the coach.
"We didn't play up to our potential today and we lost."
Halligan was able to win possession of the ball in the final minute at midfield and set up Hammond for a breakaway down the pitch's right side. The Wildcat defense was left chasing Hammond, and the lone Eagle in on the attack precisely placed her shot on the far post to beat NMU's true freshman goalkeeper Caroline Glantz.
"Defensively we played great," Granstrand said. "Our defense play was fantastic.
"We struggle in the midfield. We can decide in the midfield, we can't get all of our midfielders to be committed. Some are on, some are off. That's where we're struggling."
Glantz had only been tested twice prior to the breakaway, and according to Granstrand, it was partially the young keeper's own doing.
With 16:50 to play, Glantz tipped a high shot up into the air and nearly watched it land behind her, however, the cross bar kindly bumped the ball back to the keeper, who was forced to make a second save on her own rebound.
Glantz, who was credited with four saves, had to reach up and tip another shot away with 12 minutes to play. Both were balls Granstrand said he would have liked his keeper to grab out of the air and wrap up.
"Carol is a great keeper, but I don't think she had to perform anything today.," Granstrand said. "The one shot they had, they buried, which was a great way to finish to win the game. She couldn't have gotten that. It was just a tough game."
Northern took 17 shots, but only landed six on the Eagles net. Two came from freshman midfielder Paula Hafner, two more from junior defender Haley Boroughf of Marquette and one from junior forward Taylor Smith.
Corner kicks were also in the Wildcats' favor, 7-0, with a few chances coming late in the game.
"We're not putting anything in front of the net, at least today," Granstrand said. "I thought we did against Duluth, but today no.
"I think we're a team that still has not learned how to win, a team that's not committed to winning yet."