Nationals-bound — at home
By Journal Sports Staff
MARQUETTE — It was great news when the Northern Michigan University women’s soccer team won the GLIAC Tournament at its home NMU Soccer Field on Sunday afternoon, thus ensuring a spot in the NCAA Division II national tournament.
Then the Wildcats found out on Monday evening that they will get to host the first two rounds in their part of the Midwest Regional later this week.
As the No. 2 seed in the Midwest, NMU joins No. 1 seed Ashland in hosting a half of the bracket for two rounds.
The 56-team tournament — eight Nos. 1 and 2 seeds received first-round byes in a bracket that could hold 64 teams — opens Thursday for some teams and Friday for others who play in the first round.
NMU’s half of the Midwest Regional will be played on Friday and Sunday at the NMU Soccer Field.
The opening game pits No. 3 Grand Valley State (11-3-6) against No. 6 McKendree (16-1-3) of Lebanon, Illinois, at 10 a.m., followed by the No. 2 Wildcats (16-1-4) facing No. 7 Maryville (13-2-4) of St. Louis, Missouri, at 1 p.m.
McKendree and Maryville are members of the Great Lakes Valley Conference, with NMU and GVSU coming from the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
While this is the Wildcats’ third overall and second consecutive appearance in the NCAA tourney, it’s their first time playing host in a regional.
Maryville was the team that eliminated NMU in the Midwest Regional last November, 1-0, at Grand Valley’s field in Allendale. Lotte Brands, who is back as a junior for the Saints but who has yet to score a goal this season, got the only tally about 10 1/2 minutes after intermission following a scoreless first half despite Northern holding a 5-2 edge in shots.
For the game, NMU won the overall shots battle 11-10 as Maryville had the advantage in shots on goal, 5-1. Brenna Musser had the Wildcats’ only shot on goal during the first half.
Sunday’s winner advances to the Midwest Regional championship game. The other half of the Midwest Regional features first-round games Thursday between No. 4 Northwood of the GLIAC vs. No. 5 Cedarville and also No. 8 Michigan Tech of the GLIAC vs. No. 1 Ashland. Their second-round games are on Saturday.
After taking Thanksgiving week off, regional finals won’t be played until Thursday, Nov. 30, or Friday, Dec. 1, with the quarterfinals to quickly follow on Saturday, Dec. 2, or Sunday, Dec. 3.
That will pare the field down to the final four to be played in Matthews, North Carolina, with the semifinals on Thursday, Dec. 7, and national championship game on Saturday, Dec. 9.
Information compiled by Journal Sports Editor Steve Brownlee. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.