Niepomnik keys 5-1 blowout over Milwaukee

By Hyun Moon

Freshman Derek Niepomnik brought back images of Willy Roy Jr. during his best collegiate performance in the NIU soccer team’s 5-1 blowout of Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Saturday.

Niepomnik sprayed outside bombs from all over the field—like Roy Jr. used to do—and connected on two goals which lifted the Huskies to 10-4-3.

Under wicked weather conditions, Niepomnik’s left foot heated up the Panther’s net. “Everything went right for me today,” Niepomnik said.

Despite dominating the ball control, nothing went right for Milwaukee in the first half. The Panthers (13-5) had many excellent scoring opportunities but could not capitalize on them. Jim Klopp could have walked a loose ball into the Huskies’ goal, but decided to blast it instead and the ball sailed over the cross bar.

Gerard Lagos hit a thundering shot past NIU goalie Markus Roy, off a free-kick pass, but Niepomnik was guarding the far post and cleared the ball.

“I was near the line,” Niepomnik said. “They almost scored, but I think that was the turning point of the match.”

Five minutes later, Niepomnik took a free-kick pass from Karsten Roy and tatooed the ball into the goal from 30-yards out. “A guy was rushing at me,” he said, “so I just got rid of it. It hit the post, but fortunately it went in.”

The Huskies had a 1-0 lead after a half dominated by the gusting winds. “We were lucky,” noted Markus Roy, who gathered 10 saves in the match. “I was hoping for a 0-0 tie. We were surprised that we had the lead with the wind against us.”

The Huskies didn’t waste any time taking advantage of the wind in the second half. Just six minutes into the half, Andy Lane outraced defender John Menk to a lead pass by John Lecher and slipped a slow-roller by Panther goalie Jon Mroz.

“We poured it on from there,” Niepomnik said.

Per Ekholdt ended his season-long search for his first goal side-swiping a high, arching corner by Maitri Aung-Thwin into the net to give the Huskies a 3-0 lead with 34:47 remaining.

The Panthers scored their only goal a minute later, when Mike Roe spanked a pass from Don Grammenz past Markus Roy’s right side—the only Huskie defensive lapse of the match. “We devised a different defensive strategy today,” NIU coach Willy Roy said. “With the exception of the goal, it worked to perfection.”

Jay Konrad silenced Manual Lagos, the No. 4 scoring leader in the nation, and Dusty Showers handled Gerard Lagos. Both had plenty of help from other Huskie defenders.

Niepomnik then ended any Panther hopes of a comeback, taking a lead pass from Lane and drilling a net-finder from the top of the box. “A tremendous shot,” Willy Roy said. “Derek has a powerful shot, and he’s learned that you don’t always have to kill it.”

Dave Weichman iced the cake with another assist from Karsten Roy off a free-kick. Weichman booted a shot from just outside the box for his first goal of the season.

“I was expecting a close game,” Willy Roy said. “Beating a team of Milwaukee’s calibre 5-1 is just unbelievable.”