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Northern Michigan University Wildcats men’s soccer team picked 5th in GLIAC preseason poll

Northern Michigan University’s Kaffie Kurz moves the ball out of his defensive zone in the second half against Purdue Northwest at the NMU Soccer Field on Sept. 20, 2019. (Photo courtesy Daryl T. Jarvinen)

MARQUETTE — The Northern Michigan University men’s soccer team is ranked fifth among the eight schools in the GLIAC preseason coaches poll.

The Wildcats finished in that same fifth-place spot the last time the league conducted a season in the fall of 2019. NMU was 8-11 overall and 7-7 in league games and qualified for the third straight year for six-team league tournament, losing 5-3 at Northwood in the tourney quarterfinals on Nov. 11.

The season for men’s soccer is normally held in the fall, but because of the coronavirus pandemic, the GLIAC decided to postpone the 2020 slate till now.

The league’s eight schools will play an abbreviated seven-game regular season, once against each school, on each Sunday starting this weekend and running through April 18.

The Wildcats play at home in the Superior Dome against Saginaw Valley State at 1 p.m. Sunday. SVSU was picked second in this year’s preseason poll, getting two first-place votes, while picked first was Wisconsin-Parkside, the team NMU completes its regular season against on April 18.

Those teams also finished 1-2 in the same order in the 2019 season.

Northern, which picked up 25 points in the coaches poll, returns 13 players who were on its 2019 squad, which set a record with eight overall wins and seven GLIAC victories in the program’s short history that dates back to 2016.

Among the 13 returnees are two who started all 19 games — goal and assists leader Ryan Palmbaum, who was also the GLIAC Freshman of the Year that fall, as well as Francisco Espinoza, who scored a game-winner that season.

That pair were named to the All-GLIAC Second Team, while another returnee, Kaffie Kurz, made All-GLIAC Honorable Mention. Palmbaum was also named to the All-Midwest Region Second Team by the NCAA Division II Conference Commissioners Association.

NMU also returns two starting defenders who helped guide the team to three shutouts in 2019.

The GLIAC announced in November, following approval from the GLIAC Council of Presidents and Chancellors, that any needed makeup games would be played on Fridays and that all eight schools would qualify for the conference tournament.

The tourney is set to start the Sunday after the regular season concludes on April 25 with a quarterfinal round at higher-seeded campus sites, then the semifinals on April 30 and finals on May 2 at the field of the highest-surviving seed.

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

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