Superior Dome showdown: Northern Michigan University women’s soccer suffers first blemishes on GLIAC record with game vs. Michigan Tech on deck

Northern Michigan University's Molly Pistorius, left, scores on this kick early in the first half as Saginaw Valley State's Solana Kelly defends during their college soccer game played at the NMU Soccer Field in Marquette on Sept. 18. (Photo courtesy Daryl T. Jarvinen)

MARQUETTE — The Northern Michigan University women’s soccer team suffered its first loss and second tie of the season on a trip downstate against a pair of GLIAC foes.

League-leading Grand Valley posted a 2-1 victory, while the Wildcats and Davenport played to a 1-1 draw.

This week, the Wildcats (7-1-2, 4-1-1 GLIAC) play just one game, but it is an important one against Upper Peninsula rival Michigan Tech (3-5-2, 1-3-2) inside the Superior Dome at 7 p.m. Friday. The game will be televised on WLUC-TV6 or Fox-U.P. with Dave Ellis calling the action.

NMU will hold another of its covering the stands in green for the game, giving out T-shirts on a first-come, first-served basis at the building entrances.

The Wildcats were No. 23 in last week’s NCAA Division II national United Soccer Coaches poll, and despite the weekend loss and tie, moved up a position to No. 22. They’ve outscored their opponents 34-7 this season, the 34 goals tops in the GLIAC and 3.4 goals per game fifth in the nation.

Northern Michigan's Justina L'Esperance, left, is able to kick the ball past Bemidji State's Megan Dahl to score the Wildcats' third goal that tied the score during their college women's soccer game at the NMU Soccer Field on Sept. 2. (Photo courtesy Cara Kamps)

Justina L’Esperance leads the conference in goals with seven while Brooke Pietila leads league players with six assists and 18 points.

Northern had had the GLIAC Offensive Player of the Week for each of the first four weeks of the season, L’Esperance earning the honors the first two weeks and Pietila the next two.

Here is a roundup of last weekend’s results:


Grand Valley 2, NMU 1

On Friday at Allendale, Northern fell out of first place with the first blemish on its GLIAC mark this season after a 4-0 start.

In this matchup of NCAA Division II top-25 teams, the Wildcats were tagged with a red card midway through the first half and had to play the rest of the game one player down.

While the teams were still playing even, the Lakers opened the scoring in the 14th minute with a goal by Taylor Reid when she found a one-on-one opportunity against NMU goalkeeper Shenae Kreps and converted it.

Then in the 25th minute, the Wildcats’ Rachael Erste was assessed a red card, meaning NMU would play with 10 players vs. GVSU’s 11 the rest of the way.

Following a first half where each team took three shots and No. 7 GVSU scored on the only shot on goal, NMU’s managed to even the score less than two minutes after the game restarted.

L’Esperance scored her seventh goal of the season after firing a left-footed laser past the Lakers’ diving goalkeeper, according to an account from NMU Sports Information. Molly Pistorius earned the assist by finding L’Esperance with a pass.

GVSU had its first good chance to retake the lead in the 65th minute as the Lakers crowded the net before Kreps came up with an incredible save, NMU SI said.

Then around the 80-minute mark, Kreps came up with several more big saves. But with just 1:18 remaining in regulation, GVSU scored the winner by Kennedy Bearden, who had assisted on Reid’s goal. This goal earned an assist for the Lakers’ Stephanie Sturgeon.

For the game, Grand Valley held an 18-6 advantage in shots and took the only two corner kicks.

The teams will have their rematch in Marquette in about a week and a half on Sunday, Oct. 9.


NMU 1, Davenport 1

On Sunday in the Grand Rapids suburb of Caledonia, the game’s two goals were scored less than five minutes apart early in the second half.

Playing in the rain throughout the first half, the precipitation subsided for a bit to start the second half as the offenses took advantage.

During that early rain, Northern’s Isabelle Brusilow had the game’s first shot in the 11th minute, while another good Wildcats’ scoring chance happened in the 22nd minute by L’Esperance that was stopped by the DU netminder.

The host Panthers (3-3-4, 2-1-3) had their first shot on goal in the final 15 seconds of the first half that was saved by NMU freshman goalkeeper Ava Wilberding in her first start. She tracked the ball down and redirected the ball off a deflection with two DU players closing in.

Northern carried much of the play, outshooting Davenport 7-4 overall and 3-1 in shots on goal in the first half.

The Panthers scored first in the 51st minute when Natalia Casiello cut back left to get between a pair of NMU defenders and chipped a shot that found the bottom left corner of the net, according to NMU SI.

In the 56th minute, 4:37 later, Pistorius fired the ball into the net following a crosser from L’Esperance.

The Wildcats had to go into a defensive mode later after DU had a pair of corner kicks in the final five minutes.

For the game, NMU held 17-6 total shots and 7-2 shots on goal advantages as each team received five corner kicks.

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


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