In a day long festival of exhibitions at the NIU Soccer Complex, the Northern Illinois women’s soccer team hosted IPFW and drew with the Mastadons, 0-0, in the Huskies final friendly before the start of the regular season Friday.
NIU closed its preseason 1-0-1, surrendering zero goals.
The contest took shape as a tug-of-war for most of the first half, as both teams turned possession over in the midfield which did not allow for much offense to be created. Goalkeepers Deanna Libricz (NIU) and Sam Pavlika (IPFW) stepped up to collect through balls played by the midfielders to the forwards to thwart the attacks.
The Huskies led the shot count in the first half, 2-1.
At halftime, the Huskies made adjustments in their style of play and opened up their offense, keeping the ball in their attacking third for most of the match. Northern Illinois totaled six corner kicks in the match, five of which occurred in the second half, posted five shots on frame in the second period.
In the 56th minute, NIU took its fourth corner kick of the half and after a series of headers to keep the ball in the keeper’s box, the Huskies headed a ball into the back of the net, but the offisdes flag was raised by the sideline judge and the goal was not counted.
In the final 10 minutes of the match, freshman forward Sara Spaulding worked a ball into the 18-yard box and was the recipient of a hard foul, which immediately resulted in the shriek of the whistle and the official pointing to the penalty spot. Senior Shelbi Johnson took the penalty, but pushed it too high and sailed it over the crossbar.
Head Coach John Ross was pleased with the team’s effort and their ability to respond to the adjustments made at the half.
“I think in the beginning of the game, we were a little tentative and it was tough to find the players that we needed to rely on. Once we got things situated at halftime, the kids really stepped up and created pressure defensively. Once we created turnovers, we were able to generate our offense.”
Ross was quick to point out two members of the NIU squad that played key roles for the Huskies.
“When Lauren Eberts came into the game (at defense), it really solidified us as a team and got us back on track. She helped organize us in the back. It all started with Deanna (Libricz) in the back though. She’s done really well for us in preseason and we stayed very organized.”
Moving forward into the regular season, Coach Ross sees the team’s strength. “As a team we defend well and I think we’ve seen the benefits of that this preseason.”
Northern Illinois opens its 20th season Friday, Aug. 17, when it heads to Des Moines, Iowa to take on Drake. The Huskies will play their first home match at 4 p.m. Friday, Aug. 31, hosting Illinois State.
For more information on NIU women’s soccer and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.