After one season, the NIU soccer team has turned the tables on Akron, who come into Huskie Soccer Field at 3 p.m. today.
Last year, Akron was a Top-20 team and favored to win the Mid-Continent Conference. But NIU, picked to finish third, handed the Zips a 1-0 overtime loss at Akron en route to a first place finish in the Mid-Con.
This season’s Huskies, who are favored to repeat their Mid-Con title, have put together a 6-2-1 ledger and received votes for the Top-25. Akron, picked to finish second in the Mid-Con, has dropped out of the rankings.
“I’m not worried about establishing ourselves in any rankings,” NIU coach Willy Roy said. “All I worry about is establishing a win.”
This will be the last season the Zips (7-3-1) will compete in the Mid-Con since their proposed defection to the Mid-American Conference.
“This is our biggest match so far this year,” sweeper Karsten Roy said. “It’s nice to have the home-field advantage. We’ll be able to relax at home the night before the match rather than hanging around at an airport.”
“Akron is a very aggressive squad,” Roy said. “They do a lot of forechecking. They’ll play an English style soccer.”
“We have to control the ball against them,” Karsten added. “We have to get the ball to Franky (Sparacino) in the midfield as much as possible.”
Roy said every conference match is just as important as the next, but noted a bit of admiration for Akron coach Steve Parker’s 126-45-25 ledger. Roy is seeking a victory to better his 46-31-8 collegiate mark.
“He has a lot of wins,” Roy said. “Compared to him, I’m just a mini-coach.”
Combatting Akron’s quick starts will also be key. The Zips have outscored opponents 13-4 in the first half, while the Huskies hold a 5-3 advantage in the opening period.
NIU travels to Cleveland State Sunday (1 p.m.) for a second conference match-up in three days.