As we inch closer to the start of the fall soccer season, we’re offering some early teases of the new beats starting up with our expanded team. In case you missed this very exciting news, current pro and former Summit League star Annie Williams will be covering St Thomas as they officially begin their journey as a DI program in that conference and Mark Privratsky will be covering both the powerhouse DII NSIC and Minnesotans playing DI in other states. These summer snapshots will shed some light on what Annie and Mark are looking for as they shape their coverage moving forward. In this piece, I ask Mark about the powerhouse D2 Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC). You can check out our chats with Annie about St Thomas's first D1 season or with Mark about Minnesotans playing D1 in other states as well.
Question: Ok so this beat is a little different than covering a single team because we really wanted all of the NSIC schools in Minnesota to get some shine since they’re all playing at the same DII level. What are you initially curious about in terms of tracking the conference this fall?
There are a few things that really intrigue me about the upcoming NSIC season. Firstly, this will be the first full season since 2019 (!), but teams did play a rag tag “season” this past spring, and I’m curious to find out what happened in the shadow season! I love the idea of players bragging about stats that we cannot look up. Was the trash talk more severe? Who had the worst bubble facility? We will take it all.
Second, even though we had a somewhat gap year in full league play, lots of the top performers from 2019 return, and they’re scattered across more than just the traditional top finishers. It’s easy to want to watch Jenny Vetter at Mankato, who had 20 goals in 24 games (2nd best scorer had 10), and Brynn Desens (16 goals and 10 assists) who lead the NSIC in points in 2019. But we also have plenty of other players who could see a step up. University of Mary has Hannah Richter, who had 7 goals and 5 assists in 2019 (5th in points), and Maureen Sullivan, who had 5 goals and 2 assists in just 13 games (10th in points). Bemidji State returns Sarah Wendt, who had 10 goals and 3 assists in 19 games (4th in points).
Lastly, because there is such a top heavy history to the conference, I’m looking forward to the upsets! Can my alma mater (6 college credits) University of Minnesota-Crookston upset the mighty Mankato? Go Eagles (and their very fun array of jerseys), I say.
Q: The sort of historical powerhouse teams in the NSIC more recently have been Mankato, Augustana, Bemidji, and Concordia and St Cloud have both had some strong individual years. But college soccer can kind of always be anyone’s game with two game weekends and some long bus rides. We’ve done some background research with some NSIC alums and they say Mankato kind of likes to embrace their villain role in the conference, even doing some fairly wild intimidation tactics like screaming a full volume and slamming the walls just to sort of freak out the opposing team. That’s kind of amazing.
Sports are most fun when there is a real villain and a true chance at knocking them off their pedestal. For Division 2 soccer around the upper midwest, Mankato St has long been a regional contender. Their goal has to be pushing for a National Championship, and they have a few really solid rivals to stand in their way. Any game with the top third of the conference will be one to watch, and we will definitely check out those matches. I’m looking forward to including former NSIC players in our coverage so we get the behind the scenes stories and also so we can hear about some glory days.
Q: You’ve covered the WPSL for Equal Time this summer, we came from watching DIII soccer while at Morris, you watch plenty of other levels of soccer. And some things sort of hold true across different levels and other aspects like speed of play maybe swing more depending on the league. What are you curious about in terms of the game play itself since tracking this conference in detail is not something either of us has really done before?
Each college sport is structured differently and that has an effect on where talent balances out. For women’s college soccer, the huge amount of Division 1 programs creates situations where good D2 programs can have similar talent to D1. I expect the standard of play to be high in some games, but with a conference as big and diverse as the NSIC, we will see some varying degrees of quality as you’d expect. I’m most curious to see how individual players can shine even if they aren’t at a big program, and if some “less talented” squads can overachieve with good cohesive identity.
Q: I think one thing I’m most excited about, with you and Annie coming on board, is for you two to be able to do shows with players and coaches from these new beats so fans get to see not only more hosts but also just a much wider set of guests because there are so many badass women in the game that we just couldn’t amplify when it was me alone. What are some of the sort of features or conversations you’re looking forward to as you build these relationships across the conference?
I’m interested in conversations with the non male coaches around the NSIC. Because we still have such a lack of equity when it comes to coaching hires, especially in gender and racial terms, hearing more about these stories is something that is good for the soccer community. Coaches like Gretta Arveson at St Cloud State, who has been a steady leader for that program going on 8 years, or Erin Kasmarik-Mallet at Southwest Minnesota State in her 7th year. Erin coached the Brookings SD Boys soccer team for two years before going to Southwest State! I want to hear that story.
We also want to hear about the players' experiences. Being at a Division 2 program means less resources for athletes, and I want to hear how these women balance everything to be successful student athletes and people. If we need to talk to former players to get the REAL stories, we will!
Q: Lastly, I think all of the Summit League games are streamed, for free, online. So maybe not quite as much need for the kind of aggressive live tweeting I sometimes do? Ha ha.
The supporters of Equal Time Soccer have scrolled through dense Twitter live streams long enough! We will do our best to promote all of the streaming options you have to watch Summit League, NSIC and all of the soccer. That being said, Twitter is a great place to connect with me to get my attention on a soccer story you think we should cover. Never mind my lefty ramblings or pop culture commentary @markprivratsky
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