Culture revolution continues under Colhoff as the head coach looks to the future

By Jarrett Huff

DeKALB — On a snowy Halloween afternoon, the women’s soccer team had one last chance to close the season on a high note, putting everything out on the field.

The wind chilled to the bone, dispersing snow flurries all over the field and into the faces of the players.

It was wet. It was freezing. It didn’t stop the Huskies from going out with pride.

Unfortunately, the Huskies ended their season with a loss, capping off Head Coach Julie Colhoff’s second season at the helm with a record of 2-14-2, a slight improvement from 2-17 in 2018.

While NIU’s offense struggled to produce goals, scoring only 12 throughout 18 games this season, it was an improvement from nine goals scored in 19 games in the 2018 season.

The offense still needs to improve, as the team only attempted 114 shots with 54 on goal, compared to its opponents’ 386 shot attempts with 172 being on goal.

In games where the defense was holding its opponent, NIU forwards and midfielders struggled to advance the ball effectively, limiting the offense’s opportunities to get looks at the goal.

NIU’s defense saw noticeable improvements during the 2019 season. In 2018, the team saw 59 shots find its back of the net.

In 2019, the Huskies managed to cut that number down significantly, only allowing 44 goals from their opponents.

While the defenders made life a little harder for their opponents, ultimately it came down to stellar goalkeeping.

Junior goalkeeper Megan Donnally appeared in nine games this season, recording 72 saves with an 81.8 save percentage. Donnally only allowed 1.72 goals per game. Unfortunately, her season ended early after suffering an apparent head injury on Oct. 13 during a tie against the Miami University – Ohio.

Donnally’s improved play was noticeable and contributed to keeping NIU in some close games, one of the few bright spots at times. She finished with a record of 1-7-1, which doesn’t reflect the season she had.

Last season Donnally played in 13 games and had 75 saves with a 75% save percentage, allowing 2.42 goals per game.

Despite the lack of consistent success during the season, the women’s soccer team is still learning a new system.

It takes some time to build a culture and a system when a new coach takes over, and after year two for Colhoff, the team is still growing.

“They are moving in the right direction,” Senior defender and team captain Lauren Neslund said. “We made progress this year from last year. I’m excited to watch them continue to grow.”

Neslund, like a few other seniors on the team, won’t be returning for the 2020 season. However, Colhoff is excited to get to work with her returning players and first-year recruitment class. She hopes they can help the team get closer to their vision for it.

“I think it’s a really talented group,” Colhoff said. “I think mentality-wise they’ll help with the level as well, so I’m looking forward to not only working with our returners, but our new players as well.”

Before the new class comes in, Colhoff hopes she can establish the team’s culture, style of play and leadership to make assimilating easy for the new players into her system. The coach plans to go into the spring season with some urgency as she believes it will translate to on-field success.

“I think if we continue to pour into that, and make that an emphasis and really prioritize it, we’ll see more results,” Colhoff said. “Whether that’s in production of statistical areas or if that’s in our preparation and then ultimately our wins and losses as well.”