Women’s soccer falls to Western Illinois, unbeaten streak snapped

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Zulfiqar Ahmed

Graduate student forward Haley Hoppe dribbles past a defender during a match on Sept. 23. Hoppe is helping the next generation of women’s soccer players while continuing to lead the Huskies offense.

DeKALB — The NIU women’s soccer team was defeated by Western Illinois University in an intrastate matchup on Friday, ending the Huskies’ unbeaten streak.

The Huskies faced adversity as soon as the game started, with Western Illinois senior forward Alex Bassen scoring in the second minute. NIU seemed passive on both sides of the ball to start the game, with sloppy passing on offense and late rotations on defense defining the first half for NIU.

“I just think that we could have done a better job at staying composed in the upper third,” junior defender Amara Thompkins said. “We could have done a better job at winning second balls and applying pressure faster.”

Head coach Michael O’Neill was very vocal when imploring his team to pick up the pace in the first half. The Huskies responded well with two shots on goal from freshman midfielder Aubrey Robertson, but still could not score. Both shots were set up by crosses and hustle plays by multiple Huskies.

“After the (first) goal, we started to play a little better, get the ball out wide, but we could have done it a bit quicker,” O’Neill said. “We had some late transitions, some poor decision making and lack of communication.”

Western Illinois proved formidable on the defensive end. Junior goalkeeper Isabel Navas Rodriguez recorded five saves on nine shots faced. NIU’s defense was also able to hold strong after allowing the first goal, keeping the score at 1-0 to end the half.

The defensive energy for the Huskies seemed to fizzle out to start the second half, as they allowed Western Illinois junior midfielder Sydnee Sagal to score the Leathernecks’ second goal of the game.

“Our overall effort to compete, body-to-body, going for tackles 100%, was lower than it has been,” Robertson said.

Western Illinois proceeded to score another goal in the 76th minute, with seemingly no resistance from the Huskie defenders. Freshman goalkeeper Deighton Wamer had a rough night in front of the net, facing 14 shots and allowing three goals. She was eventually subbed out at 79th minute of the match.

The Huskies were not able to score in the second half, ending the game 3-0. NIU falls to 2-1-2 on the year and looks to bounce back on Monday.

“The topic (of discussion) is responding,” O’Neill said. “We’re going against a top-25 team in the nation, and it’s going to be interesting to see how the girls respond.”

The NIU women’s soccer team will visit the University of Wisconsin-Madison for their next match at 4 p.m. Monday.