It’s a lockdown day: Northern Michigan University women’s soccer team opens GLIAC tourney today in Superior Dome vs. Northwood
Today’s game: GLIAC Tournament, quarterfinals: Northwood at NMU, noon, Superior Dome
“It doesn’t matter which seed you are, first, second, all the way to eighth. When you get in, anything can happen.” — Jon Sandoval, NMU women’s soccer head coach,
MARQUETTE — The waiting is over for the Northern Michigan University women’s soccer team as the GLIAC Tournament begins this afternoon with the No. 3-seeded Wildcats hosting No. 6 Northwood at noon in the Superior Dome.
The postseason is a welcome sign for the Wildcats (6-2-1), who were off last week and left wondering who they would play in the first round. During the time off, NMU head coach Jon Sandoval said his team focused on making improvements and that resting over the down-time was important.
“I think it was a good week to get some much-needed rest with the stress of finals coming up and also just postseason coming and having such a long season with half as many games,” he said in a Monday Zoom interview. “I think it was good to get that break in there and get them a couple extra days off and I think it’s something that they’ve deserved and earned.
“To be able to go through everything that we have so far and still able to maintain the COVID(-19) procedures and whatnot and not lose a lot of people and to get our nine games through is just such a huge accomplishment, too, that you get to earn that extra week of rest.
“So I definitely think our players earned that. It does sometimes throw off the rhythm a little bit when you do have one of those weeks that you don’t play any matches that you’re used to playing for the last nine weeks, but we were able to knock off a little bit of the rust, get back at it, play 11 (players) a couple times this week.
“It was good to rest and I think Northwood matches up pretty well with us going forward. So hopefully, we can just take care of that one (today).”
Now that Northern knows it’s facing the Timberwolves (3-4-1), Sandoval has been able to figure out what to expect. The ‘Cats took on Northwood in the Superior Dome just over two weeks ago and had one of its most dominating defensive performances, holding the Timberwolves without any kind of shot the entire game. NMU prevailed 1-0.
That history could prove to be a big plus confidence-wise going into the match, but Sandoval said that past successes really doesn’t matter once the postseason begins.
“Conference tournament is different,” he said. “So it doesn’t matter which seed you are, first, second, all the way to eighth. When you get in, anything can happen. And I think that’s probably the message that (Northwood head) coach (Chelsea) Hunter is sending to her group is that what happened last time is irrelevant.
“What matters now is what happens on the field, and I think it took us nearly 80 minutes to get that goal. And so in that time, one counter attack, one set piece, one mishap, anything can happen. So we set a standard where we like to dictate the way we play. So that’s the only thing that is really not changing from our mindset is that we’re going to have to be prepared and we understand that we’re going to be up for a battle even more so than the last time we played.”
Getting to have a tournament game at home is a nice accomplishment and one of the goals the Wildcats had before the season.
Not surprisingly though, Sandoval said NMU wants more.
“We have 11 goals that we were looking to accomplish this spring,” he said. “By Tuesday at 3 o’clock, we could have nine out of 10 of those succeeded and they weren’t easy targets.
“It is good, but I think I mentioned this in the press conference earlier, you get there and then you want a little more. And then you want a little more.
“So we’re not overlooking Northwood, we’re not overlooking the battle that we have (today), but now, we’ve gotten the information from the conference. We see it mapped out, and we’re a selfish team in regards to wins and getting results.
“So I think we have set our goals a little bit higher than what we originally planned to earlier in the winter.”
If Northern wins, it’ll advance to play in the semifinals against the Ashland-Davenport quarterfinal winner on Friday at the site of the highest remaining seed. A semifinal win would put the Wildcats in the GLIAC Championship match on Sunday. Those game times have yet to be determined.
In the unlikely event that No. 1 seed Ferris State and No. 2 Ashland lose today, No. 3 NMU would be eligible to host the semifinals and finals. FSU hosts No. 8 Saginaw Valley State today.
Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.