Optimism abounds: Northern Michigan University men’s soccer team returns 16 players from inaugural season

Northern Michigan University's Sveinn Karlsson, left, goes neck and neck with Tiffin's Austin Combs during a game played at the NMU Soccer Field on Oct. 21. (Journal file photo)

“The addition of 14 newcomers will provide needed depth and make us even stronger.” — David Poggi, head coach, NMU men’s soccer

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MARQUETTE — Coach David Poggi seems optimistic heading into the second year of the Northern Michigan University men’s soccer program after the team returns 16 members of a team that just missed the GLIAC tournament in its inaugural campaign.

The team, which finished last fall seventh in the league with a 5-9-2 record and was 5-10-2 overall, had a shot at making the tourney until the season’s final weekend.

“We had a great fall inaugural season, we learned a ton about our conference, a ton about ourselves and a ton about where we want to be,” Poggi said in a news release from the university. “The experiences from year one will provide us a different platform to grow as individuals and as a team.”

The Wildcats were picked fifth among seven teams in the GLIAC preseason coaches’ poll released last week, garnering 15 votes. Defending champion Saginaw Valley State earned the top spot among three schools that received first-place votes. The Cardinals got four first-place votes, No. 2 newcomer Davenport two and No. 3 Tiffin one. Northwood was selected fourth, while Ashland was sixth and the other newcomer, Purdue Northwest, seventh.

SVSU has made five appearances in the NCAA Division II tournament in the past six years and returns All-American honorable mention Matt Wilson and GLIAC Freshman of the Year Roddy Green. Davenport was 20-2-3 last year and made it to the NAIA national semifinals last season, while Tiffin won the GLIAC tourney last fall.

Poggi has added 14 new players to this year’s NMU roster after the team scored 17 goals and gave up 27 in 17 games last season. Northern posted two shutouts last season while not scoring a goal in five others.

“We didn’t give up a lot of goals last season and we didn’t generate many either,” Poggi said. “It is not as much the attackers as it is the guys who get them the ball. The addition of 14 newcomers will provide needed depth and make us even stronger. We have attack players who are hoping to build on their first season.”

Junior Sam Popp is again expected to have a major role in the Wildcats attack as Ben Hoffman, Colton Becker and David Feldmann also return with experience and confidence from extensive playing time in their first year.

Also returning is 2016 leading scorer Sveinn Karlsson, who had a hand in more than half of NMU’s goals last season with four goals and five assists.

He headlines a capable group of midfielders along with returnees Nic Harenda and Edgar Astorga, each of whom played important roles on both sides of the ball.

Leighton Lommel and Carson Burmeister will be counted on to add competition for a spot linking the sides together.

Filippo Torelli will begin where he left off last season as starting goalkeeper.

“Filippo showed last season in training and matches that he has the qualities needed to lead us this season,” Poggi said.

Kevin Hoof, the team’s captain, anchors the defense for the Cats. He logged 1,430 minutes, starting 16 games last fall, and brings valuable veteran leadership to the squad. Sophomores Eric Suess, Nicholas Vergara and Nic Metcalfe also return to a backline that had a stingy 1.55 goals-against average.

The Wildcats open the season with three games on the road, in Hancock at Finlandia University on Saturday, Aug. 26, then in Grand Rapids for games against Indianapolis on Thursday, Aug. 31, and Missouri-St. Louis on Saturday, Sept. 2.

Northern’s home opener at the NMU Soccer Field will be at 4 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 7, against Upper Iowa, the first of four straight home games over 10 days.

The regular season wraps up Oct. 28 in Grand Rapids again against Notre Dame, Ohio, while the six-team GLIAC tournament runs Oct. 31, Nov. 3 and Nov. 5.

Information compiled by Journal Sports Editor Steve Brownlee. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.