Women’s soccer preps for ‘dogfight’ game

By Steve Shonder

Women’s soccer gets one last shot at defending its home turf before conference play kicks into gear.

The Huskies (2-5) will face the Green Bay Phoenix (4-2-2) 7 p.m. today at the Soccer and Track & Field Complex. The Huskies are coming off a 1-0 loss Sunday to the Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville Cougars. The Phoenix are entering on a three-game losing streak that’s put a black mark on their once hot start.

Head coach John Ross expects a challenging game for the Huskies.

“It’s going to be a dogfight right from the get-go,” Ross said. “They’re a very hard-working, physical team and we’re a hard-working physical team, as well. It’s going to come down to who can capitalize on their opportunities and limit the other team’s opportunities.”

The Phoenix are led by junior Heidi Hartmann, who has seven goals this season, making her the team’s most dangerous scorer. NIU got a lot of experience facing a team that funnels its scoring through one player Sunday in SIUE: Cassidy Sherman, who is the focal point of SIUE’s attack, was shut down, giving the Huskies confidence in how to approach this game.

“I — all in all — think the defense handled that pretty well,” junior Kate Wirthlin said. “Basically, what it comes down to is we need to play our game, not go off what they’re doing. If we focus on one person, I don’t think that’s going to help. If we focus on everybody else that will eventually help us to distract and keep that one player out of the game.”

After an explosive offensive output led the Huskies to victory Friday, the team was shut down Sunday. Freshman Ashley Auble said the team knows what went wrong and the problem should be fixable.

“We’re always a little off,” Auble said. “We’re either a step behind the ball. If it gets crossed in, we [are] just like one step out of place. … We can create opportunities pretty well; it’s just like we can’t execute on putting it in goal. So, if we time it better and communicate with our team that will help us.”

The failure to come away with a goal against SIUE was a learning experience for the Huskies. Ross said they will be better when it comes to down to scoring, especially against Green Bay.

“We definitely learned a lot from the SIUE game,” Ross said. “It’s more about what we do. If we do what we’re supposed to do, we’re pretty good. Green Bay is a dangerous team. We’ve got to limit the stuff they’re able to do.”

Thursday’s game will be the last game before MAC play begins. Wirthlin said the Huskies need to get another win under their belt in order to pick up momentum.

“I think coming off a loss, I think everybody is really motivated to [do] the best they can especially in this upcoming game because it really needs to prepare us for conference games,” Wirthlin said. “I feel like this game will determine the level that we’re going to put in when we’re going to play that conference game.”