Women’s soccer off to historic start

By Steve Shonder

Women’s soccer was carried by its defense to its best start of MAC play over the weekend.

The Huskies (5-6-1, 3-0-1 MAC) played the Kent State Golden Flashes (7-3-2, 2-1-1 MAC) to a 1-1 draw on a rainy and cold Friday. Sunday, they took down the Ohio Bobcats (5-7, 2-2 MAC), 2-0, after a pair of late goals.

The Huskies have never been unbeaten through their first four MAC games. In 1997 and 1998, NIU went 3-1 in its first four conference games. Head coach John Ross said he expects the Huskies to keep up the hot start.

“I think over the last couple weeks we’ve really turned a corner,” Ross said. “We found some combinations that work and have some better ideas of what players are able to do, and I think everybody’s getting more and more comfortable with each other, and it shows in our play.”

Ross said the defense has become the Huskies’ strong area this season. The defense has allowed only an average of 0.75 goals per game in conference play.

“They’re comfortable back there,” Ross said. “They’re comfortable with each other next to them. They’ve just been in sync the last couple weeks. I go back to comfortable. When you’re comfortable, it’s easy keeping stuff in front of them. It’s easy [to] step to the ball. We’ve been strong in the air, as well; that helps.”

Kent State

The Huskies refused to go away against Kent State. The rain and cold kept the action slow Friday, with neither team having many solid chances in the opening minutes.

In the 37th minute, the Golden Flashes got on the board when they took advantage of a long free kick into the box. Jenna Hellstrom took a pass from Renee Loya and flicked the ball over freshman goalkeeper Amy Annala for the goal.

NIU got a pair of close chances in the closing minutes of the half. Junior Kate Wirthlin shot high over the net off a corner kick by senior Ashley Neubeck. Senior Allie McBride followed that up with NIU’s chance of the night, forcing Kent State goalkeeper Stephanie Senn to make a save.

In the 73rd minute, the Huskies had the ball down in the Golden Flashes’ right corner. After a fight for the ball, it came loose and scooted across the field, where sophomore Haley Cummings fired off a shot from 25 yards out that sailed into the net. It was Cummings’ second equalizer in as many games.

“I think it’s a breakthrough, but it’s a team effort,” Cummings said. “It takes a whole team to move the ball up, win the first ball, win the second ball. It feels great … .”


The Huskies got some big contributions off the bench Sunday.

Junior Maggie Renfro chipped in the Huskies’ first goal in the 73rd minute when freshman Lauren Gierman crossed the ball into the box. The ball glanced off Renfro’s foot and rolled into the left corner of the net.

In the 82nd minute, sophomore Jess Wooldridge came down the right wing and tried to put a cross into the box, but it found its way over the outstretched hands of Ohio goalkeeper Nicole Amari and into the net.

Wooldridge normally plays defense but played at forward this weekend to work her back into the lineup after missing two games with a concussion. Wooldridge credited her team for putting her in position to score.

“It felt so good,” Wooldridge said. “I was really happy for my team. I couldn’t have done it without my team, actually. They’re the ones that pushed me. The defense played really well today.”