Postseason hopes ride on finale

By Hyun Moon

Two teams will be battling for post-season honors when the NIU soccer team meets Wright State today at 1 p.m. in Dayton, Ohio.

The Huskies (10-4-3 overall, 4-1-1 in the Mid-Continent Conference) need a win to keep themselves in contention for an NCAA bid. The Raiders (8-8-1, 4-0), with a win over NIU, can share the league title with Akron and also duplicate NIU’s feat of winning the league title in its inaugural season.

“We know they’re going to be fired up,” senior defender Frank Sparacino said. “But we need this match as much as they do.”

The Huskies are playing for the bigger prize, should motivation be the deciding factor. “In order to have any chance at all, we have to win,” NIU coach Willy Roy said. “All anybody wants out of life is a chance.”

All season long, the Huskies had opportunities to ensure themselves a first-ever trip to the NCAA’s, but in those big matches, nothing went their way.

“We’ve had close matches with Hartwick, SMU and Saint Louis,” senior forward John Lechner said. “Those are good results, but I’d be sorry if my career here had to end without the opportunity to play in a playoff game.”

The Huskies are coming off an impressive 5-1 victory over Wisconsin-Milwaukee which has caught the eye of Raider coach Greg Andrulis. “It’s a very impressive win,” he said. “We’re expecting a very difficult match. Northern has a great team, and they play a tremendous schedule.”

Dayton is expecting snow today, and Andrulis said if it snows, game plans will not be a factor. “We can throw any game plans out the window,” he said. “It’ll become a matter of heart and determination.”

Andrulis said the Huskies deserve to play in the NCAA Tournament, but “not every team that is deserving gets into the tournament.

“The bottom line is you have to win. You need wins over the top-ranked teams in your region.”