Women’s soccer drops MAC quarterfinal


Sophomore forward Natalie Yass kicks the ball in the Huskies’ 1-0 loss Thursday to Western Michigan. NIU lost to Ball State Sunday 2-1 in the MAC Tournament Quarterfinals.

By Krystal Megan

DeKALB — Women’s soccer came close but could not complete the comeback to save its season Sunday in Muncie, Indiana as its season ended, falling to the Ball State University Cardinals on the road in the Mid-American Conference Tournament Quarterfinal matchup.

The Cardinals scored both of their goals in the first half. Cardinals’ junior midfielder Lauren Roll got a shot past senior goalkeeper Amy Annala in the 28th minute and sophomore midfielder Julia Elvbo scored on a deflected shot into the goal in the 35th minute.

Senior midfielder Allie Ingham fired a rocket from the top of the box over Cardinals’ senior goalkeeper Tristin Stuteville in the 73rd minute, but Ball State fended off the Huskies the rest of the way.

Head Coach John Ross said he was proud of his team and the fight they had after being down two goals, and he also gave credit to Ball State for being resilient after scoring its first goal.

“We had a couple golden opportunities [after Ingham’s goal], but it’s the game of soccer,” Ross said. “You have to put the ball in the back of the net, and you got to keep it out of yours. At the end of the day, that’s what decides the game. Also, give Ball State credit because they’ve been in this position the last couple years, and they had a lot of resilience once they got that first goal to hold us off.”

The Cardinals outshot the Huskies, 12-8, and put eight shots on goal to the Huskies four on target. NIU edged the Cardinals in corner kicks, 6-5, and committed 14 fouls to Ball State’s 13. Annala made six saves in the game to Stuteville’s five.

NIU entered the MAC tournament as the seventh seed but won its two previous matches against the second-seeded Ball State.

The Huskies defeated the Cardinals in last season’s MAC quarterfinals on penalty kicks and won this year’s regular season matchup against Ball State, 3-2, in overtime Oct. 8.

One of the notable differences for the team this season was its depth. The Huskies finished the regular season with 20 goals and 21 assists, after finishing last season with 15 goals and 14 assists. The team had 12 different goal scorers this season and six players with multiple goals.

Junior forward Taylor Sarver and freshman defender Haley Hoppe led the team in goals scored this season. This is the second consecutive year Sarver’s led the team in goals.

Redshirt junior forward Lauren Gierman returned to lead the team in points with 10 and assists with six after missing the 2016 season recovering from injury.

Delaney Loprieno, redshirt junior defender and midfielder, scored her first collegiate goal this season and played the most minutes on the team with 1,372, the most she’s played since being at NIU.

Loprieno spent most of the season playing center back, a position she’d never played in her soccer career, before moving up in the defense as a defensive holding midfielder toward the end of the season.

NIU allowed fewer goals a game than last season, allowing 1.09 goals per game after averaging 1.16 last season.

Ross said he’s most satisfied with the effort and how strong the team played defensively this season.

“We gave up some goals, but the other teams really have to work to score against us,” Ross said. “[We were] being more open to little changes inside of what we’re trying to do to create some more opportunities attacking-wise, [and that] was very nice this year as well.”

{{tncms-inline account=”_krystalmegan” html=”<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">It’s been great covering <a href="https://twitter.com/NIUWomensSoccer?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@NIUWomensSoccer</a> these past two seasons! My love for the game has grown 😎 The future’s bright for this team ⚽️🐾</p>— Krystal Megan (@_krystalmegan) <a href="https://twitter.com/_krystalmegan/status/924755340838572033?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">October 29, 2017</a></blockquote>” id=”924755340838572033″ type=”twitter”}}

Ross said his team performed well overall this year, despite having a tough stretch at the end of the season.

“That MAC schedule for us is really tough when we go on the road for five days,” Ross said. “I think we’re the only team that has to do that, and that’s two years in a row. It makes it really tough for our kids with school and midterms at that same time, but they don’t complain. They just get their work done and fight through. I’m just really happy with the way we fought all year. We definitely showed some improvements in our attacking aspect. It kind of faded a little bit at the end of the year, but we’ve got a lot to build on going forward.”

The team will lose four notable seniors in Ingham, defender Natalia Pena, forward Sammy O’Brien and Annala. Annala recorded 323 saves in her collegiate career and became second all-time in saves in NIU history.