Learning opportunity: MTU’s Jacob proud of US women

David Archambeau/For the Gazette Michigan Tech’s Orion Koepsel reaches to get a shot off during a game against St. Cloud during a game last season in Houghton.

HOUGHTON — Michigan Tech women’s soccer coach Michelle Jacob is using the United States’ national team’s 2-0 World Cup win in early July as an opportunity for her team to learn and get excited for Michigan Tech’s 2019 season that is set to kick off on Aug. 21.

“I think, for women’s soccer in general, having that platform in being viewed by so many people, I know my players were watching, texting me and talking about it,” she said. “I think it creates (an) excitement. For us, it creates some excitement because our season starts so soon. It just gets them excited.

“I think they can watch the games and the players and learn something about what it looks like to play at that kind of level. It gives them a picture of the hard work and skill set that all of those players have. It gives us motivation to get better and use this sport as a means to grow as individuals and as a team.”

The national team’s push for equal pay may have little to do with the game itself but Jacob saw the U.S. team fight for more than just the games in front of them.

“Particularly with the push for equal pay, considering the sucess that they’ve had (you can see them battle),” said Jacob. “When you playing in the World Cup, it’s the biggest thing that you can accomplish as a team, but in terms of getting the equal pay and (getting) equal respect (to what) our men’s program is getting.

“It was in the air, (that they were) able to pull of a win, it (made) a difference. It proves a point that much more that they’re successful and not being compensated properly.”

The thirty players on Michigan Tech’s 2019 roster saw the game they love from a different angle and perspective. Jacob wants to see her team build the confidence to capitalize on opportunities and mastering corner kicks, which are things that the U.S. team does well. She saw the tournament as a way to try and strengthen the Huskies’ game this fall.

“I watched pretty much every single game, whether the U.S. was playing or not,” she said. “A couple of notes that I was making in my head and I even talked to some of my players about (centered on) the forwards on their team. If they can’t get into the box or make a pass, then they make corner kicks happen.

“I think that we need to be better as a team on recognizing that opportunity and then obviously work hard at being able to finish corner kicks. If you look back at the goals that were scored, so many of them came from either a set (play) or a corner kick or a cross. That’s something I think we can focus on.”

“It gives such a better picture of possessing the ball,” Jacob said. “If we can see it from a different angle, then maybe see things on the field (differently). Just the position and the quality passes (to) have to make the other team cover so much more ground.

“We play a little bit smaller (scale), but our position game is a little bit more contracted. Being able to spread it out and still make passes like that is a great (goal) for us.”

Over 25.4 million people tuned into Fox to watch the final game between the United States and the Netherlands, breaking a record for any soccer game, men’s or women’s watched in the United States.

“I believe the World Cup final was one of the most watched games of all sports,” Jacob said. “Our team is definitely excited (and) I hope that the community is excited about women’s soccer and the direction that it’s heading with that big win for the United States.

“For me watching all of the players, not just the United States, just being able to watch women’s soccer on TV and to see all the stands filled with all of those fans, I think it’s just a wonderful time for the sport and our culture (to) hopefully be able to progress the game even further.”

“We still have a long way to go (as far as) compensation for equal pay and a lot of other things like that (still) need to be addressed,” said Jacob.

Jacob hopes to see that excitement carry over into the start of Michigan Tech’s season when they play their first home game against Purdue Northwest at Sherman Field on Sept. 27 at 5 p.m.

“Hopefully there’s still a lot of buzz in the air and I know right now the women’s national team are doing parades and tours and things like that, so I hope that buzz stays fresh for longer (because) we’re about a month and a half out from (the start of) our season.

“Hopefully people will be just as excited to come and watch women’s soccer and watch our team play and support these female athletes who are investing a lot of time and energy to make themselves quality players.”