Looking to make big strides

After first GLIAC playoff berth, NMU men's soccer tries to make more progress

Northern Michigan University's Callum Olpin passes the ball to a teammate while pursued by Northwood's Lirim Shefkiu on Sept. 17 at the NMU Soccer Field. On Sunday against Purdue University-Northwest, Olpin picked up his first assist this season on a first-half goal scored by the Wildcats' Nick Metcalfe. (Journal file photo by Rachel Oakley)

MARQUETTE — The Northern Michigan University men’s soccer program has only been around for a short while, but last season, it made some god progress in only its second year.

The Wildcats finished the season 6-11-2 (2-9-1 GLIAC) and had some ups and downs over the course of the season including a rough stretch where Northern went on a five-game skid including four shutouts.

However, NMU managed to earn a conference postseason bid for the first time ever and upset Tiffin on the road in the first round. In the playoff win over the Dragons, Sam Popp got the opening goal in the first half on a shot to the left corner, but Tiffin tied it at 1-1 at the 52:01 mark of the second half on a rebound.

Just 20 minutes later though, Birkur Baldursson gave the Wildcats the lead again when he scored on a shot from 20 yards out and NMU held on to get the 2-1 victory.

Northern then lost to Saginaw Valley State 1-0 in the GLIAC semifinals.

Most of the team will return this fall as the Wildcats didn’t lose any players to graduation. A senior, Popp will be the offensive star after leading Northern in goals (six), assists (three) and points (15) in 2017. Popp will have a decent supporting cast too with defenseman Kevin Hoof and midfielder Sveinn Karlsson as both of them scored two goals last season.

NMU will also have some good depth this year as 10 new players will join the roster.

The Wildcats open their season Friday, Aug. 24 in a home exhibition against Wisconsin-Superior and will play their first regular season game Thursday, Aug. 30 against Mercyhurst in Marquette. Northern will play its GLIAC opener Sept 14 at home against Davenport.

Information compiled by Journal Sports Writer Ryan Stieg. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net.