The Northwood men’s soccer team kicked off the GLIAC Tournament semifinal round by upsetting SVSU 2-1 on Friday, Nov. 2.
The Cardinals entered the contest ranked No. 1 in the Midwest Region and No. 11 in the country, but will now have to wait until Monday evening to learn their NCAA Playoff fate.
“Unfortunately, we have to wait and hope that other results in the Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC) go our way to ensure we advance to the NCAA Playoffs,” head coach Andy Wagstaff said.
The weekend was not completely lost, however, as several SVSU players received impressive accolades at the GLIAC’s annual postseason banquet. In addition to being regular season champions, SVSU’s senior defender Omar Sinclair was named GLIAC Defensive Player of the Year and First-Team All-GLIAC Defender for his efforts this season. Sinclair anchored a Cardinal defense that earned seven clean sheets on the year.
Sinclair was Wagstaff’s first recruit at SVSU.
“I’m incredibly proud of the players that were rewarded for their hard work this year,” Wagstaff said. “I’m very appreciative of their efforts, and it makes us proud to know we won Defender of the Year and Freshman of the Year. The award winners are aware that without their teammates, they could never have won the awards they did.”
Also on the defensive side, Cardinal goalkeeper Lukas Betz was named GLIAC Freshman of the Year and made Second Team All-GLIAC. It’s the third straight year an SVSU player has won Freshman of the Year. Betz allowed just 10 goals against during the regular season, an average of 0.64 goals per game. He ranked second in the conference with eight victories.
SVSU had three additional players on the First Team All-GLIAC squad. Junior forward Azaad Liadi, sophomore forward Michael
Hamilton and senior midfielder Michael Shaikly. The trio combined for 16 goals on the year.
Junior defender Wladimir Babaew, another member of the impressive SVSU defensive unit, was named All-GLIAC Honorable Mention.
In Friday’s semifinal matchup, Northwood stunned the conference’s top defense, scoring a goal in the 20th minute and again early in the second half to give NU a 2-0 edge.
“The goals came from unusual, easy-to-fix defending mistakes,” junior midfielder Pablo Ortiz said. “It happens sometimes.”
Northwood’s second goal came in the 54th minute on a ball that deflected off an SVSU defender into the feet of Northwood’s Jack Doyle, who fired home his third goal of the season. The goal was one of only two shots Northwood was able to fire in the second half.
“We gave away goals that are uncharacteristic from a team that was top-20 in the nation for goals against, so it made it difficult to come back from 2-0 down,” Wagstaff said.
SVSU, desperate to come back, fired off 11 second half shots, one of which found the net off the foot of Liadi in the 73rd minute, his eighth of the season.
The final 17 minutes of play featured shot after shot by the Cardinals. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough, as Timberwolf goalkeeper Corbin Cecchini and the NU defense held strong and came away with a 2-1 victory.
“We got back into it and thought we deserved to draw the game at least, but it wasn’t to be,” Wagstaff said.
SVSU now sits at 9-2-6 on the season.
The winner of the GLIAC tournament receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Playoffs. SVSU will hope for an at-large bid and make the tournament in addition to the winner of the Northwood-Ashland GLIAC tournament final. That game was still in progress when The Valley Vanguard went to press.
The playoff selection show will take place on Monday at 6 p.m. and will be streamed live on ncaa.com.