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Looking back at 2021: Poggi reflects on NMU men’s soccer season

Northern Michigan University's Ryan Palmbaum, center, brings the ball up field as Davenport's Ben Cengic, left, and Darren Collins converge during the first half of their GLIAC Tournament quarterfinal game played Sunday, April 25, 2021, in the Superior Dome in Marquette. (Journal photo by Ryan Stieg)

MARQUETTE — Playing in the spring isn’t a typical thing for the Northern Michigan University men’s soccer team and neither is playing indoors for that matter.

The Wildcats managed to make the best of an unusual season though and ended up earning a home match in the GLIAC Tournament. However, they made an early exit as NMU was defeated in the first round by Davenport on penalty kicks.

It was an up and down game for Northern as they gave up an early goal, but tied it up at 1-1 late in the first half. However, the ‘Cats couldn’t cash in the second half or in either overtime session. Then things got messy during the penalty kick portion of the match as goalkeeper Alex Weaver ended up taking one of the shots and some of the other players shot out of order.

In a Zoom interview last week, NMU head coach David Poggi talked about the penalty kicks and even though it ended in a terrible fashion, he said it was a good learning experience.

“Penalty kicks are something that, you need to make your first two for sure, or at least two out of your first three to give you a chance at the end,” he said. “Typically, you put your guys who you know are gonna make them at number 1 and 2, or at least that’s the school of thought. And they chose to go a different way, they didn’t go to the same school of thought that I’ve been to. So I took responsibility for that, as I should, in not preparing enough for the penalty kicks. But it’s an experience that regardless of who chose it, and whether it worked or didn’t work, it’s an experience that they’re never gonna forget and in a good way, not to psychologically damage them in the future. But from a standpoint of when they get in that situation again next year, and maybe not in the GLIAC Tournament, but hopefully in the national tournament, that’ll move them on to the next round because they’ll understand, and we’ll understand as a group how to handle that.”

Northern Michigan University's Emanuele Ancione, center, chases Northwood's George Caudwell in the Timberwolves' end during the second half of their men's soccer game played Sunday, April 11, 2021, at the Superior Dome in Marquette. (Journal photo by Ryan Stieg)

Other than the penalty kick session, Poggi thought that the match with Davenport was “one of our most complete matches of the season.” He also thought that his team overcame a lot during the year with injuries and did a great job dealing with an unusual season.

“I think it was a huge success this year,” he said. “We managed the Covid real well. If there was a trophy for all that, I think we would’ve won it, but it’s not and the trophy goes on to the winner, or the one who got the tiebreaker through the penalties and they moved on. And hopefully will win the GLIAC Championship because then it will be even sweeter for us. But I’m real happy with it. Now we’re just working on kind of debriefing with the players and going through what things they’ve gotta take care of before they leave and then three months from now, we’ll be doing it again.”

Poggi also said that even though the season was shorter than normal and at a different point in the year, he thinks it’ll be beneficial for next fall.

“If you don’t have a fantastic, like we’ve had this year, spring opportunity, you’re really going about seven months without really having a proper training regimen with your players,” he said. “So this year, we’re only gonna be without them for three months. And I think that hopefully, the lessons and work that we’ve done, they’ll continue that during the summer and it’ll be easier for them to be ready to play just from an attention standpoint. So I think we’ll be more ready than we normally are because of that change in the scheduling. Unfortunately, so will other people.

“Ours is a sport that requires collective thinking. We don’t send in the plays. Sometimes we don’t remember to send the kicking orders, but they have to communicate and solve problems themselves because the ball is placed someplace else by the time you can get information to them. And so that collective thought is real important.

“I think the shorter period of time between now and then will make it a lot easier for us to have that kind of a mindset.”

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

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