Women’s soccer moves into MAC tourney

By Steve Shonder

The women’s soccer team got a boost from being at home and clinched a spot in the MAC tournament for the second year in a row.

The Huskies (6-9-3, 4-4-2 MAC) upset the Kent State Golden Flashes (11-7, 6-4 MAC) 2-1 in Friday’s match, which was the program’s first home night game. On Sunday, NIU beat the Ohio Bobcats (7-6-5, 3-4-3 MAC) 2-1, which ensured the team a tournament berth. Sunday was also Senior Day.

The Golden Flashes got on the board with an early goal from leading scorer Jessacca Gironda. Despite the early deficit, the Huskies stayed aggressive offensively with a series of breakaways. NIU head coach John Ross said that was all part of the game plan.

“We wanted to get the ball in behind them, that lets our players run,” Ross said.

In the 38th minute, senior forward Cori Frankenberg struck first for the Huskies with a goal from 30 yards out off an assist from Ashley Neubeck.

Just after halftime, Allie McBride scored off a penalty kick, giving the Huskies a 2-1 lead that held up for the remainder of the game.

“When I take penalty kicks, all I think is positive thoughts,” McBride said. “It is a very under-pressure situation.”

The win did not come without cost. Freshman Jackie Wandt went down with a leg injury during the first half. Ross confirmed it was a broken leg and Wandt will miss the rest of the season.

The first home night game was a success for the Huskies. McBride believes that combined with the home field advantage aided the Huskies in the victory.

“We’re a very confident team, especially at home,” McBride said. “We feed off the energy at home. It was our first game under the lights, so I think we were all pumped.”

The match Sunday against Ohio was decided in the second half. After a largely uneventful first half, both teams turned up the attack. The Huskies got on the board first thanks to Samantha Hill’s first goal of the season, which came off a cross from Emily Nulty.

“I felt like I needed to follow up the cross, even though it was already in the goalie’s hands,” Hill said. “At the last minute, I decided to go in with my head. I felt like that was the most accurate, because if I volleyed it might have gone wide.”

Sara Spaulding added to the lead in the 80th minute when a corner kick deflected off the hands of Ohio’s goalie. Ohio increased the pressure and finally broke through in the 83rd minute.

Carly Manso scored off a deflection to pull the game to 2-1. Courtney Ksiazek thought the defense adjusted to Ohio’s offensive scheme change late in the game.

“They threw up a couple people towards the end,” Ksiazek said. “That always kind of throws you off because I’m used to being free in the back and not having to mark. It definitely adds a little pressure and a little responsibility.”

The win on Sunday clinched a playoff spot for the Huskies. NIU is set as the seventh seed for the tournament.

“The players came out and played extremely hard,” Ross said. “It was Senior Day, so there was a lot of emotion and passion for the game. Our players really showed that and came through. The nice thing is that the seniors get an additional game. From there, it’s whatever they make of it to leave a lasting impression.”