Loftiest position: Fast 5-0-1 start propels Northern Michigan University women’s soccer team to highest-ever national ranking of No. 13

Northern Michigan University’s Hannah Kastamo, right, keeps the ball away from Minnesota-Duluth’s Hallie Witt during their game played at the NMU Soccer Field in Marquette on Aug. 31. (Photo courtesy Cara Kamps)

MARQUETTE — Maybe the sky’s the limit for the Northern Michigan University women’s soccer team as these Wildcats have attained their highest national ranking ever after remaining undefeated while opening the conference schedule last weekend.

Playing at the NMU Soccer Field, Northern tied also undefeated-at-the-time Wisconsin-Parkside and took a win against Purdue Northwest to improve to 5-0-1 overall and move up 10 spots in the United Soccer Coaches’ NCAA Division II rankings to No. 13. It also marks the first time in program history that the Wildcats have been nationally ranked for two weeks in a row.

NMU is the highest-ranked GLIAC school as Grand Valley State (3-1-2) resides at No. 22. Former conference member Ashland (5-0) is No. 1, while another ex-GLIAC school, Mercyhurst (5-1), is No. 23.

This weekend, Northern travels to Big Rapids to face Ferris State (2-2-2 overall, 0-1-1 GLIAC) at 4 p.m. today, then heads east to University Center to take on Saginaw Valley State (3-2-1, 0-1-1) at noon Sunday.

At 1-0-1, the Wildcats are tied with Davenport and GVSU for second place in the GLIAC as Michigan Tech leads the way at 2-0.

Northern Michigan University’s Izzy Brusilow, right, keeps the ball away from Minnesota-Duluth's Jessica Eischens, center, during their college women’s soccer game played at the NMU Soccer Field in Marquette on Aug. 31. (Photo courtesy Cara Kamps)

Fans can follow this NMU team @NMU_wsoccer on X (formerly Twitter) for continued coverage. For live statistics, visit the NMU athletics website at nmuwildcats.com and look under the women’s soccer schedule.

Each of this weekend’s matches can be seen on FloFC. For both games, visit https://www.flofc.com/ to find the games.

Northern head coach Jon Sandoval expects stiff competition, according to a weekend preview provided by NMU Sports Information.

“(This weekend) is going to be a really tough test,” he said. “Any time you go downstate, it’s always a challenging test, so I think this weekend is gut-check time.”

They can check those guts out with sophomore Molly Pistorius, the GLIAC’s top goal scorer and only league player with multiple hat tricks, which she pulled off in NMU’s first three games.

She not only leads the conference with six goals, but also with 13 points, 30 shots, 2.83 shots on goal per game, 1.00 goals per game and 2.17 points per game. And Pistorius, last year’s GLIAC Freshman of the Year, is tied for the top spot with two game-winning goals.

Nationally, she’s tied for fifth in goals, tied for seventh in points, tied for fifth in shots on goal and is seventh in total shot attempts.

Another sophomore, Hannah Kastamo, is second on the team in each scoring category with four goals, two assists and 10 points. In the GLIAC, she’s tied for first in game-winning goals with two, second in goals and points, and tied for fourth in assists.

Nationally, Kastamo is tied with Pistorius for seventh in game-winning goals.

Senior Brenna Musser leads the team and is sixth nationally with four assists, while sophomore goalkeeper Jillian Thompson is tied for first in the nation with four shutouts. She leads the league with five wins and is tied for the top spot with 540 minutes played.

Senior defender Gwen Kiilunen is the closest to Thompson in minutes played with 539, while junior Maria Storm has 500 minutes and senior Isabelle Brusilow 487.

NMU holds a 16-4 edge in scoring over its opponents, likely because of a 125-38 advantage in shots.

Nationally, the Wildcats are third with 70 shots on goal, fifth with 11.67 shots on goal per game, sixth with 125 shot attempts, tied for seventh with 42 corner kicks, tied for eighth with a .917 win-loss percentage, 10th with 20.83 shots per game, tied for 11th with 16 goals, tied for 13th with 11 assists, tied for 13th with 43 points, and tied for 19th with 2.67 goals per game.

Northern is the GLIAC leader in goals, assists, points and four shutouts.

Looking at today’s opponent, Haley Buckman leads Ferris State with two goals, while Isabella Baron, Payton Price, Bella Vallone and Katherine Welch have one each.

Darya Mosallaei, who has the most time in the FSU net, is second in the conference with 21 saves while compiling a 1.20 goals-against average and .778 saves percentage.

Last season, NMU won and tied in games vs. the Bulldogs.

For SVSU, Madi Bajis and Stephanie Strong each have three goals while Strong also has four assists, allowing her to be tied for the league lead in assists, second in shots, tied for second in points and fifth in goals.

Goalie Lainey Garbarz has three starts and a 1.08 GAA and .800 saves percentage with 16 saves. That ranks her tied for fifth in the GLIAC in both save percentage and saves.

In their last six matchups, NMU has won five of them, outscoring the Cardinals 13-8.

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


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