MARQUETTE - A young Northern Michigan University soccer team is finding new confidence according to its head coach.
The Wildcats shut out Findlay 3-0 at home on Sunday afternoon to improve to 3-6 overall and 2-3 in the GLIAC.
"We have so many young players out there who are just learning how to win," NMU coach Matt Granstrand said. "And there's no way around it; learning how to win takes time."
Northern Michigan University sophomore Taylor Smith, right, fights for a loose ball with University of Findlay junior Lauren Marcum in the second half of a soccer game played at NMU on Sunday afternoon. NMU defeated Findlay 3-0, moving the Wildcats’ record to 3-6 overall and 2-3 in the GLIAC. (Journal photo by Amanda Monthei)
The win came at the end of a three-game home stand, with the previous two games GLIAC losses, 3-2 to Tiffin on Friday and 5-0 to Michigan Tech the previous weekend.
"We're starting to get a little bit of success, and it's allowing for us to believe in ourselves a little more," Granstrand said of the changes he's seen in his team recently. "As a young team they don't know what the standard is here, they don't know that we're normally a very good team.
"We're trying to convince them of that and they're starting to understand."
Sophomore Taylor Smith notched two second-half goals on Sunday, the first unassisted following a long shot by freshman Gabriella Garza that hit the crossbar and the second coming off a pass from freshman TIffany Trembley. Senior teammate Amelia Johnson scored the game's first goal 33 minutes in with an assist going to sophomore Ashley Katers.
Northern's style of play on Sunday, which often allowed the offense of Findlay (2-5-1, 2-2-2) to control the game, was a change of pace from the Wildcats' typical approach, a change that Granstrand said came just in the past couple weeks.
"That's the way we play, we invite people into our half and then we counter," he said. "It's just a style of play, we allow them that possession if it's not near our goal."
Granstrand said NMU's new approach still bought them plenty of opportunities to score even with the ball repeatedly in their half of the field.
But the Oilers was also taking their opportunities as each team logged six shots on goal, with redshirt freshman Shelby Conard protecting the net for Northern and Kelsea Corns goaltending for Findlay. Conard got her third win and second shutout this season.
"Findlay had the ball more but we got in on our opportunities and allowed them into our half," Granstrand said. "Starting last week, we changed our system, but I've played this way forever. This is the way I've always coached and I'm just going back to the old style."
Another change Granstrand has seen in his team this week was not just letting a few veteran players carry all the play.
"The big difference today was that all 11 played and that's the only way we're going to have success," he said. "We're just starting to play better, we played better on Friday, we're starting to compete.
"You could see it on Friday, I thought we could have won that game and today I think we were determined to show who we are."
The Wildcats head to Midland to play another GLIAC rival, Northwood, at 2 p.m. Friday, followed by a game at Saginaw Valley State on Sunday.
Amanda Monthei can be reached at 228-2500 or at firstname.lastname@example.org