The Northern Illinois women’s soccer team played with great pace and energy in their home opener against in-state rival Illinois State, firing 15 shots in the second half and five on frame.
ISU’s Rachel Tejada, however, slipped a goal past the Huskies in the 70th minute to defeat the Huskies, 1-0.
“I’m really happy with the effort today and what we worked on this week in practice. (The hard work) really showed on the field, the kids really stepped up today,” said Head Coach John Ross.
“There’s still some things we need to work on and we need to pay more attention to detail. That will all come with more practice, more film and more game experience.”
Both teams worked box-to-box on the pitch in the first half, but the backline for both teams collapsed on the offense to end scoring chances. The Redbirds owned a 3-1 advantage over the Huskies in shots during the opening stanza.
When the Huskies took the opening kickoff, they worked the ball with great precision through the midfield to weave the ball like a tapestry through Redbird defense. The team found Frances Boukidis (La Cresenta, Calif./Crescenta Valley) in front of the post 56 seconds in to take the matches first shot on goal that was saved and collected by goalkeeper Aryn Newsom.
Northern Illinois began its Blitzkrieg on ISU shortly thereafter, taking shots low from close range that were parried for corner kicks and sailing balls high of the crossbar from outside the 18-yard box. All told, NIU attempted nine corner kicks in the match, six of which were in the second period.
In the 70th minute of play, Redbird Sarah Mussallem collected the ball just to the left of the 18-yard box with the NIU defense around her.
Mussallem worked around back line to cross the ball to the center of the box, where Tejada was waiting. The sophomore took two touches on the ball and fired the ball high and wide of goalkeeper Amy Carr’s reach to give Illinois State the lead, 1-0.
After the ISU score, the Huskies turned up the pressure by winning a majority of 50/50 ball attempts on the Redbirds to maintain possession and continue to crochet towards the net. NIU then continued to bombard the Illinois State defense with shots and corner attempts.
Northern Illinois took six shots in the final 19 minutes of the match, including two on frame from Boukidis and Sara Spaulding (Milton, Wis./Milton) that tested Newsom right in front of goal. The keeper stood firm however to earn her second win of the season and keep ISU unbeaten to start the season.
NIU did well defensively to halt the Illinois State offense that was averaging four goals per match in their first four contests of the season. The goal scorer, Tejada, has already accounted for eight goals and an assist (17 points) in her first five appearances and is coming off a consensus Freshman All-America season.
The Huskies return to the pitch at 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 2, when they host Loyola at the NIU Soccer Complex.
For more information on NIU women’s soccer and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.