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Northern Michigan University women’s soccer team hits the road after win over Michigan Tech

Northern Michigan University’s Isabela Cardoso carries the ball against Ashland during a game on Oct. 27, 2019, at the NMU Soccer Field. (Journal file photo)

MARQUETTE — Just three games into its season, the women’s soccer team at Northern Michigan University is looking pretty good.

After a blowout loss to national powerhouse Grand Valley State in the season opener, NMU has defeated Davenport and rival Michigan Tech, taking down the Huskies on Sunday 3-1 in the Superior Dome.

Wildcats head coach Jon Sandoval was pleased with how the match went overall and considered it a “team effort.”

“We have been preaching winning the initial balls and winning the second balls and that’s something the attack does really well,” he said in a Zoom interview on Monday. “And we just wanted to make sure that we were able to dictate play and dominate the middle of the (field). I felt that Tech’s game plan coming in, they did a pretty good job at limiting Caroline (Halonen) and her ability to swing the ball and her ability to keep us organized, they definitely put somebody right on her and other players stepped up.

“We had two freshmen step up really big (Sunday). Really happy just overall with just the effort and the execution. Tech is also a team that is really good at set pieces and has a number of, if you will, trick plays, and a number of quick plays and short passes.

Northern Michigan University’s Evelyn Flor carries the ball against Ashland during a game on Oct. 27, 2019, at the NMU Soccer Field. (Journal file photo)

“Our scouting report had them all right and we frustrated them in a lot of areas. So we’re pretty happy with the result in just the way that the team executed based on the things that we worked on in training earlier in the week.”

The Wildcats scored twice in the first half on goals by Isabela Cardoso and Evelyn Flor, and after Tech scored in the 60th minute, Northern got a penalty-kick goal from Halonen five minutes later to clinch the victory.

Asked if there was a big difference between the halves, Sandoval said his team just took advantage of their opportunities in the first half.

“I would say that the only thing that really stuck out was that we finished our chances,” he said. “I think we weren’t as clinical in the second half. I think we had some opportunities to put them away and especially when you have that 2-0 lead, it can be dangerous when whoever scores that next goal, and unfortunately for us it was Tech, and that could’ve made things pretty wild toward the end, but luckily we kept our composure and were able to frustrate them a little bit defensively.

“We did a lot of things right. (Goalkeeper) Shenae (Kreps) made some pretty big saves, too … and we finished our chances in the first half. So that was really good.

“I think we scored six goals in conference play in 2019 and so far we’ve got seven in three games. So we’re definitely trending in the right direction in terms of having the right quality chances and then finishing those chances.”

“… As the end of the game approached … I thought we managed it really well. I thought we were able to frustrate them in terms of not allowing them to play their style and not allowing them to find rhythm defensively. We played smart, we didn’t take unnecessary risks in the back.

“So I thought in terms of executing implementation on Sunday, it was all around, a really good effort both halves.”

NMU hits the road again this week, heading south to face Saginaw Valley State (0-1) and then even further and into Ohio to face Ashland (1-1). Sandoval said both squads are strong, so it will be a tough test.

“We go play Saginaw and Ashland and those are two quality opponents,” he said. “They typically finish in the top four of the conference. Ashland is usually a top-10 program in the country, Saginaw is usually a top-25 program in the country.

“So I didn’t want to tell the team this, but Sunday was a really big game for morale and then when you head on the road, if you win the games at home, it makes the road feel a little bit less pressure and that’s what we did on Sunday.

“So anytime we hit the road, we do not come back without having at least one point. So we secure points on the road. That’s our philosophy and I think taking care of the ones at home makes this weekend a little bit less pressure, especially given some of the results of the conference the last couple days.

“I think we’re sitting in third now, so we’re in a good situation. If we can grind through this last road trip, our easier schedule is coming toward the end. We’re playing the best teams, if you will, early on in our schedule and now, we’re going to be, once we get through this road trip, we’ll have some opportunities to secure some more points at home and then end the season in a really good situation.”

Game time against SVSU is 1 p.m. Thursday and at Ashland is 1 p.m. Saturday.

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net.

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