Despite a solid defensive effort, including a scoreless halftime, the Northern Illinois women’s soccer team ended its 2012 season Sunday afternoon with a 2-0 loss versus Central Michigan in the Mid-American Conference Tournament quarterfinal.
Goalkeeper Deanna Libricz (Algonquin/Dundee-Crown) made a career-high eight saves in the match in only her second start of the season in place of injured Amy Carr (Hemel Hempstead, England/Townsend Church of England).
“Dee played outstanding today,” said head coach John Ross. “To have Amy play most of the year and play at high level in that time, for Dee to step into that role after the way Amy played against Toledo on Thursday, she showed a lot of confidence and that was really huge for us today.
“In the first half the kids came out really strong, they were fighting, playing hard and defending the field with everything they had. In the second half we were able to make a little bit more of a game of it with our opportunities in our attacking third. We did a really good job of playing with heart today and I’m proud of them. The kids worked extremely hard we’ll get back to work next week and look forward to next season.”
As has been the case the last few games, the Huskies made changes in their lineup to spice things up in the defensive and attacking third, starting defenders Lauren Eberts and Kayra Thompson up top at forward to set an aggressive tempo. NIU defended with a bend but don’t break mentality, putting high pressure on CMU before the final finish on net.
Northern Illinois’ spunk appeared throughout the lineup as the team played aggressively to attack balls and tackle. NIU was outshot by CMU, 9-1, in the first half, tallying its lone shot in the final seconds of the first half on a great run and a shot 22-yards out by Ashley Neubeck, that was blocked by the small of Central Michigan defender’s back.
The grit of the Northern Illinois carried it to a scoreless match at halftime versus CMU.
Nineteen seconds into the second half, freshman Nicole Gobbo opened the second half with a breakaway run to the net and rifled a shot that beat the keeper, but just sailed left of the post to establish a Huskie lead.
CMU had a great chance in the 62nd minute eight-yards from net, following a cross by Bailey Brandon from the nearside of the field where Laura Twiddle and Laura Gosse were inside pressuring the NIU defense. With neither team collecting the loose ball that rolled four yards from goal and Libricz off her line, but slipping on the natural grass surface, defender Emily Nulty (Omaha, Neb./Marian) disrupted the Chips attack on the play before sweeping the ball out of the box.
The Chippewas continued to pressure on that same attack but were unable to make an effort on goal. On the transition minutes later, Mackenzie Lewis (Woodbury, Minn./East Ridge) sent a ball into the box through the air to Gobbo (Bartlett), who won the 50/50 ball and headed it outside the box to Lauren Noonan, who sailed the shot just right of the post.
Central Michigan took the lead in the 63rd minute when Josie Seebeck crossed a ball into the 18-yard to the head of Laura Gosse, who finished the ball into the front corner of the side netting on the far post. The ball appeared to be rolling past the post but it rolled and curled in to give the Chippewas a 1-0 lead.
Only minutes later, Libricz made a fantastic save on a point blank header from Twiddle three yards out to keep Northern Illinois within one goal. Noonan (Naperville/Neuqua Valley), with a boot as soft as a featherbed, made a fantastic block inside the box that surely stopped a would be goal for the Chippewas and with full control of the ball at her feet and with no one around, cleared the threat in the 81st minute.
Two minutes later, the Chips transitioned back into attack. Following a series of great saves from Libricz and a failed clearance by the NIU defense, CMU’s Twiddle curled a ball into the side netting of the far post past a diving Libricz to seal the victory for Central Michigan.
Northern Illinois ends its 2012 season 8-9-2, a 400 percent improvement from last season’s 2-15-2 season. For more information on NIU women’s soccer and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.