NIU hopes for luckier 2nd half

By Hyun Moon

In soccer, only inches separate victory from defeat.

“There’s only one match we lost legitimately,” NIU coach Willy Roy said at roughly the halfway point of the season.

That one match Roy is referring to was a 1-0 loss to then—No. 9 Hartwick. “It was our first match of the year, and they were better prepared than we were,” Roy said.

Hartwick already played three matches before taking on the Huskies at the Mayor’s Cup in New York.

The other losses could easily have been wins, Roy said. In the 2-0 loss to No. 10 Southern Methodist, NIU could easily have had a 1-0 lead in the first half. Karsten Roy hit the left post on a free kick early in the match. SMU scored on a possible offside goal to take a 1-0 lead.

In the loss to Akron, Dave Weichman’s header in the first half hit the left post after Akron’s goalie barely got his fingertips on the ball. Per Ekholdt also miss-kicked a ball on an empty net in overtime.

“We could easily be 8-1-1,” Roy said.

But NIU is 7-3-1 and coming off a 3-2 victory over Cleveland State. NIU, looking to continue the momentum, meets the 4-9 Illinois-Chicago Flames today at 3 p.m. in Chicago. In the past two seasons, NIU has outscored the Flames 14-0.

This year’s Flames boast the No. 5 leading scorer in the nation, Mike Rigas, who has 28 points on nine goals and 10 assists.

“We have to make sure we keep an eye on him,” Roy said.

Rigas will test the NIU defense which no longer includes Karsten Roy and Frank Sparacino. Both are now midfielders. Jay Konrad, Derek Niepomnik, Dusty Showers and Dave Weichman will be responsible for goalie Markus Roy’s well-being.

“We have to play together as a unit,” Markus said. “We’ll work our hardest, and that’s all anybody can ask for.”

“I’m looking forward to UIC and the second half of the season,” Roy said.

“Joe Novy is beginning to play well, Dave Weichman is on an upswing and I’m sure John Lechner will start to score some goals.”