HOUGHTON - It is often said that you can best judge a coach based on how he or she progresses with their team in the third year on the job.
If that is indeed the case, consider Michigan Tech women's soccer coach Michelle Jacob and the Huskies a striking success.
After winning 14 total games in the first two years of the program's existence, the Tech soccer team has already jumped out to a 4-2 start this season - including a harmless 4-2 loss to Division I Wisconsin-Green Bay - with a perfect 2-0 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference record.
Michigan Tech’s Janelle Riedl and Northern Michigan’s Brekelle Sellers fight for the ball during the teams’ meeting at Sherman Field in Houghton Sept. 10. The Huskies and Wildcats meet again, this time in Marquette, Saturday. (DMG photo by David Archambeau)
Even better, the Huskies just swept conference opponents Lake Erie and Notre Dame (Ohio) on the road last week.
Last year, the Huskies won one road contest all season.
"I think that the team in general has just gotten stronger," Jacob said. "I think they looked at last season, and we didn't win some games that we could have won. So the girls invested their time in the offseason to improve. We came in better shape, we came in stronger and we came in more focused. It's really showing this year."
The improvement shows most in the goal scoring.
The Huskies are averaging 1.80 goals per game and have scored two in each of the last five games. This is a product of improved play and understanding within the 4-3-3 system, opening up more opportunities for a talented trio of forwards and attacking midfielder Lindsey Van Rooy.
Tech is shooting an average of 20.8 times per game and put nearly half of those on goal.
"Really, we are just creating a lot of shots, a lot of opportunities and a lot of runs," Jacob said. "If you continue to do that, eventually one is going to go in. We are getting good contributions from the mids this year too, not having to rely on just the forwards to score.
"If you look at the Notre Dame game especially, our midfielders really controlled that game for us. Janelle Riedl had a great weekend, she was a great distributor. And then Lindsey (Van Rooy) is just so consistent."
The Huskies head to Marquette Saturday for their second game of the season against Northern Michigan. Tech beat the Wildcats 2-0 two weeks ago in a non-conference, dominating possession with a 21-7 shot advantage.
Jacob expects that NMU head coach Matt Granstrand will adjust his formation to prevent Tech from controlling the midfield once again.
"I think when we played them the first time we controlled the game by controlling the tempo," Jacob said. "So yes, I think they will try to throw us off our game. They might change the formation to try and throw us off or they might put more pressure on the ball. I've been telling our players, whatever it is, we just need to play our game."
Once again, Jacob will make an adjustment of her own, moving Kaitlyn Boelter to centerback to try and counter the pace of Wildcat forward Amelia Johnson.
"They know our matchups and we know theirs," Jacob said. "Rivalry games always have games inside the game like this."