Huskies prepare for season finale, seniors reflect on Huskie careers


By Jarrett Huff

DeKALB — Women’s soccer will host Western Michigan University for its final game of the season 2 p.m. Thursday at the Soccer and Track and Field Complex in DeKalb. NIU looks to go out with a win after a tough stretch of Mid-American Conference games.

The Huskies enter Thursday’s match with a record of 2-13-2 and 0-9-1 in MAC play, while the Broncos enter at 7-9-1 and 5-4-1 in MAC play. The teams last met Oct. 25, 2018 in Kalamazoo, Michigan. WMU defeated NIU by a score of 4-0. NIU has an all-time record of 3-10-3 against WMU, with NIU losing the last two matches. NIU is 1-3-2 at home against WMU.

NIU is coming off a 1-0 loss Sunday against the University of Akron. Sophomore goalkeeper Julia Lentz started in goal and came up with four saves.

The loss marks NIU’s fourth-straight defeat, leading to the 10th time this season the Huskies have been shut out. 

On the bright side, NIU’s defense improved at limiting its opponent’s shot attempts, as Akron only had 11. In past weeks, the Huskies allowed more than double that at times.

Head Coach Julie Colhoff said she feels the team was more dialed in collectively during Sunday’s game, as the back line did its job, and the forwards were putting more pressure on their opponents higher up the field. It’s something she hopes the team takes into Thursday’s match.

WMU is coming off a 1-0 loss Sunday to Bowling Green State University. The Broncos are in a four-way tie for third place in the MAC standings heading into their last game of conference play.

Even with a win, the Huskies will remain last in the conference to close the season. While the season hasn’t gone as expected, this game is far from meaningless to the team.

“All season long I’ve been telling this group that we’re definitely capable of winning,” Colhoff said. “We’re definitely capable of putting together a performance where we are attacking the offensive side [and] defending collectively on the defensive side. I think it all comes down to the willingness. So what I want to see in this match is the will to showcase our best selves.”

This will be the final game at NIU for seniors Kelsey Chope, Kyleigh Dominguez, Abby Gregg, Jennie Nailor and Lauren Neslund. Grace Louis will be inactive for Thursday’s match. Some of them shared their thoughts ahead of their final match.

Chope, a defender and midfielder, has played 74 games for the Huskies, making 67 starts. She has four goals, four assists and 12 points in four seasons at NIU.

“The experience has had such a positive impact on all of us,” Chope said. “I think we’ve learned not only a lot about soccer, but a lot about ourselves in terms of how we can approach situations in life and what we’re going to build upon after we graduate. The support from the staff has been amazing, and the support from the team is the thing I’m going to take away and miss the most.”

Dominguez, a forward, has played 32 games for the Huskies, making 18 starts. She has four goals and eight points in three seasons at NIU. Dominguez transferred to NIU from the University of Cincinnati during her sophomore season. At Cincinnati, she had two goals in 20 games played.

“I think it’s been beneficial to transfer here and see the changes that we’ve gone through, overcoming everything that’s been thrown at us,” Dominguez said. “I’m excited for Thursday’s game and to play through it.”

Gregg, a forward and midfielder, has played 61 games for the Huskies, making 35 starts. She has four goals, one assist and nine points in four seasons at NIU.

“My biggest takeaway is being disciplined and working hard through anything that comes our way,” Gregg said. “I think we’ve been faced with a lot of different challenges in the past four years, and I’ve just learned how to persevere through it and continue to stay disciplined and work hard no matter what.”

Neslund, a defender, has played in 41 games, making 16 starts. She has one goal and two points in four seasons at NIU. She missed the entire 2018 season due to injury.

“It’s been a crazy run,” Neslund. “It’s taught me, because obviously I’ve gone through injuries, that I am stronger than I think that I am, so I proved myself wrong in those ways. I think it’s really just taught me accountability, and going into the game this week, I just want to go all out and just finish strong.”

Ahead of the final game of the season, Colhoff imparted some words for her seniors before their final match.

“Make yourself proud,” Colhoff said. “These games stick with you for the rest of your life. Leave it all out on the pitch, [and] have no regrets.”

The senior class helped NIU to a 17-41-8 record in four years, respectively.