Women’s soccer’s home-opening weekend ends in draws

Huskies remain undefeated after three games

Then-senior+defender+Jenna+Lewey+%285%29+dribbles+the+ball+while+playing+against+the+Toledo+Rockets+on+Sept.+23%2C+2021.

Khavon Thomas

Then-senior defender Jenna Lewey (5) dribbles the ball while playing against the Toledo Rockets on Sept. 23, 2021.

DeKALB — The NIU women’s soccer team was caught in a pair of defensive battles with Lindenwood University and the University of Southern Indiana over the weekend. The Huskies drew even with Lindeon 0-0 on Friday before tying with USI Sunday at 1-1.

A scoreless affair on new turf

The Huskies did not allow any shots on goal in the first half and only one in the second half of Friday’s game. Although undersized compared to Lindenwood, the Huskie women’s soccer team was able to dominate their opposition on the defensive side of the ball for 90 minutes.

“Since coach (O’Neill) got here, we’ve worked a lot on our defensive DNA and who we are,” junior forward Reegan Kingpavong said. “We practice that a lot.”

Lindenwood committed 17 fouls while NIU fouled eight times. The physicality of the game seemed to inspire the Huskies on both sides of the ball.

“I think it’s just mindset,” junior midfielder Claudia Muessig said. “Not giving up and not letting them win the ball. I think it was a good battle today.”

Transfer provides needed spark

Players from both teams stepped up on both sides to meet the challenge, especially a few off the bench. Kingpavong, a recent transfer from Saginaw Valley State University,  subbed into the game and provided an immediate spark for the Huskies. While only playing 38 minutes, Kingpavong recorded two shots on goal that were inches away from being the first goals of the game.

“Coming off the bench, you get to see the game already and how it settles in,” Kingpavong said. “Coming in, seeing that the other team is already tired and having a plan to impact the game. That mindset (helped me) come in and do as much as I can for the team.”

Head coach Michael O’Neill said he appreciated Kingpavong’s efforts as well, praising her after the game.

“It was a game for Reegan today,” O’Neill said. “She was fantastic off the bench and provided a different dimension for us and hopefully that continues throughout the rest of the year.”

However, her energy fell just short of what was needed as the game clock ticked down and ended the game at 0-0. O’Neill noticed that some of the Huskies seemed disheartened about the draw, but felt that the team took a step in the right direction.

“There’s a lot of reasons to be frustrated, but in terms of what we set out to achieve, there’s lots of momentum and some really, really good things on display,” O’Neill said.

Another draw, higher score

The NIU women’s soccer team had another tough bout against Southern Indiana on Sunday, ending the game with a score of 1-1. This was the second draw of the weekend for the Huskies.

With rule changes being made by the NCAA eliminating overtime during the regular season to prevent injuries to the athletes, it will be a struggle for teams to come out with a victory this season.

“We would have loved an extra 20 minutes on Friday and an extra 20 minutes today because we felt like we were on the ascendence,” O’Neill said. “But we have to understand that we are here to win, and we will have to try and do that within the 90-minute period.”

There’s a lot of reasons to be frustrated, but in terms of what we set out to achieve, there’s lots of momentum and some really, really good things on display.”

— Women's soccer head coach Michael O'Neill

Following Friday’s draw, the Huskies looked more motivated in Sunday’s game. They were astonishing on the defensive end of the field, containing Southern Indiana to one goal, even though Southern Indiana was being aggressive every second of the game. Whenever it looked like Southern Indiana would score, the Huskies defended and had a counterattack to shift the momentum of the game in their favor.

“I think it’s just mental awareness, strength, and working together as a team,” junior defender Abby Adams said. “And when you’re tired you need to push through more, to get back, and just have the grit to get back and work defensively to prevent the goal.”

The first goal of the game was scored by Southern Indiana in the 53rd minute of action. This was short-lived due to NIU’s very own goal scored just seconds later by Muessig and assisted by Adams.

“I saw Adams driving down the sideline and I made a run in,” Muessig said. “As soon as I saw her head go down, I knew we were getting a shot. I went behind and hit it and just hoped it went in.”

The Huskies remain unbeaten after three games of the regular season, sitting with a 1-0-2 overall record.

The NIU women’s soccer team will visit Eastern Illinois University at 1 p.m. next Sunday. The game will be streamed on ESPN+.