DeKALB – Mid-American Conference play begins for the Huskies today, and with a 5-6-1 record, NIU has some scores to settle.
The Huskies started the season slow with a 1-4 record, before jumping to a four-match winning streak. The Huskies have proven they can compete at a level better than last season, and that should be the case for conference play this season.
NIU will open MAC play 2 p.m. today against Southern Illinois University at the Soccer and Track and Field Complex in DeKalb. This will be the second year in a row in which NIU opens conference play against SIU. The Cougars took down the Huskies Oct. 6 in a 3-2 double-overtime defeat in Edwardsville during last season’s opener. Junior midfielder Alex Welch and sophomore forward Nick Markanich scored for NIU.
NIU’s last home win against the Cougars was Oct. 22, 2014 in a dominant 4-1 victory. The Cougars were not yet in the MAC in 2014, as they joined the conference in 2017. SIUE competed in the Missouri Valley Conference before the MAC.
In their last three meetings, the Cougars have taken two victories over the Huskies, including a 1-0 victory in DeKalb on Oct. 21, 2017.
The Huskies haven’t won a MAC opening game since 2015 when NIU beat Bowling Green State University 1-0 in overtime on Oct. 3. NIU hasn’t posted more than one victory in the MAC since 2012 when it went 4-2-1.
The Huskies will have another tough task at hand, as the MAC has proven to be a very competitive league. Only the University of Akron holds a conference record worse than NIU’s, as the Zips sit at 1-8-1. Bowling Green and Western Michigan University lead with seven victories each, while West Virginia University and SIUE have six wins each.
NIU finished the 2018 conference season with a 1-4 record, their only win was against Akron in a 2-1 victory Oct. 20 at home.