Soccer Huskies look to return to form in 2018

David Archambeau/Daily Mining Gazette Huskies forward Marisa DeMario controls the ball during a game against the Beavers during the 2017 season at Sherman Field. The Huskies open play tonight.

HOUGHTON — The 2018 soccer season is right around the corner. Coming off of an injury-plagued 2017 that saw them go 5-11-1 last season, Michigan Tech Huskies head coach Michelle Jacob looks to integrate a number of new faces into the team this year.

“The biggest thing we’ve been working on is trying to get everyone comfortable with each other and learning the system of play that we want to use this year,” said Jacob. “We’ve been scrimmaging a lot trying to pick up on players’ strengths.”

Working in practice as hard as one would in a game is something that Jacob tries to instill in her players from the time they first hit Sherman Field for practice.

“With our practices, we’ve really been trying to get them to be as competitive as possible,” she said. “They were quickly introduced into what we expect to see from other schools.”

Eleven new players are fighting for playing time on this year’s roster. Athletes are coming from all corners of the country trying to help make this season a successful one.

“I would say that they come from pretty strong backgrounds,” Jacob said. “They’ve had good high school and club experiences as well as good coaches.

“I think the play at our level is more physical. It’s quicker, but I think they have a good base to be able to acclimate to that right away.”

One thing that Jacob prides her staff on is finding players who can add to the team sooner, rather than later.

“We’ve been fortunate the new players came in fit and strong and ready to play,” she said, “so I think we’re going to have a great opportunity to utilize some of our young players right off the bat.”

A focal point early on this season will be to build off of what the incoming players already know from playing in high school or on club teams.

“Taking their past experiences and building on them, fine tuning them into the way that we feel we can get the most out of their strengths, has been a focal point for us,” said Jacob. “Coming off of last season was incredibly hard, for not only our staff but also our players. I think bouncing back from that, we want to win games that we should win, and show up and compete every day.”

One newcomer with some experience at the college level is sophomore Mackenzie Scholz, a transfer from University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. Scholz is a forward whom Jacob tried to recruit when she was still in high school. Jacob is excited to see how she works with the rest of the team.

“She has her past experiences and I think she can use those to her advantage and hopefully make a difference in our program,” said Jacob. “It’s just allowing her the opportunity to show us what she can do.”

With 16 regular season games lying ahead for the Huskies, it’s important to capitalize on good gameplay throughout the season.

“The conference is so strong, there are no easy teams,” Jacob said. “We have to be prepared to play at our best every time we show up to play at that field. (It’s about) not giving anything away. We can’t afford it.”

The GLIAC has a number of solid squads again this year, but that has not deterred Jacob from having some big offensive goals for the team this year.

“(We are) working on creating offensive opportunities for our team to be able to get that early goal in, instead of trying to fight back a goal down, would be a big plus for us,” she said.

Jacob feels that she has a great mixture of youthful enthusiasm and veteran presence to take on teams like Northern Michigan and Grand Valley State, both teams who are perennially strong opponents.

“You’ll see some familiar faces,” said Jacob. “We’ve got some incoming freshmen who will contribute right off the bat, so I think it’ll be an exciting year.

“The environment that players have created has been a positive, hard-working one (in practice). I hope that every day we can get better and better and be proud of what we put out there.”

One big goal has eluded Jacob through her tenure at Michigan Tech, but it is still on her list.

“The ultimate goal for our program is to be national champions,” she said. “We try to keep that in our minds, and in our players’ minds.

“We need to replicate the work that will match that outcome. Obviously, it’s not easy, but if we continue to plug away at our program every day, (we will) make it the best that we can.”

The Huskies open the season tonight at Sherman Field against Minnesota-Duluth at 6 p.m.