With Northern Illinois and Eastern Michigan trading possession up and down the pitch in their Mid-American Conference opener, the Eagles struck the first, only and final blow on a penalty kick by Bianca Ross to lift EMU over NIU, 1-0, in a physical MAC showdown.
“Obviously it’s what we expected,” head coach John Ross said of the physical nature of the match.
“Anytime you get into conference play the level of intensity always increases. We were ready for it and we were just a little off – a step slow here, a pass off here and that was the difference in the outcome of the game. We created quite a few chances and we were right there.”
With a cold, steady rain and chilly wind, autumn began a day early in DeKalb.
The Huskies jumped out of the gates on the attack and controlled possession in the attacking third. Chances were created at the corner of the Eagles box with outside and center backs collapsing down on the NIU forwards.
From the right wing, Cori Frankenberg took four of the Huskies six shots in the first stanza, including two on frame. Her acrobatic play in the air and rabbit-like pace on the ground were a force to be reckoned up top, highlighted by a jumping deflection off the end of her boot off a volley in the 27th minute.
Frankenberg’s best chance came in the 32nd minute when she received the ball close to the midfield and slithered through the defense with great ball control, reaching the box and shaking the defender with a clever stop-and-start move.
With nothing but the keeper between her and the net, Frankenberg fired low but the ball was deflected by a diving Jenna O’Dell and her torso to thwart the Northern Illinois strike.
“Their goalkeeper came up with some huge saves but we still have to create those quality chances and if you create enough of those, you’ll get some goals, even if the goalie is playing hot,” Ross said. “We got to keep doing what we’re doing and just keep working to prepare for Sunday.”
Though Eastern Michigan did not post a shot on goal in the first half, their attacking efforts were crosses to the center of the net. Goalkeeper Amy Carr came off her line several times in the half to collect and punch away any balls in dangerous areas.
The Eagles controlled the ball at the start of the second half and did a great job of playing keep away from NIU by winning 50-50 balls in the midfield. With pressure mounting from the EMU attack in the 64th minute, the Huskie defense collapsed on an Eastern Michigan attacker and took her down, forcing official John Anderson to award the penalty.
Rossi leaned back and slid the ball to her right in the corner of the net, away from a diving Carr, to give Eastern Michigan its 1-0 lead.
In the final 10 minutes of play, NIU mounted a charge on net. Play was lead in the midfield and in the back to win 50-50 chances and maintain possession of the ball to create opportunities.
Frankenberg took a shot that sailed wide right of the net in the 82nd minute and, following a corner kick by Shelbi Johnson five minutes later, Samantha Hill chipped a ball high of the cross bar to equalize the match.
Courtney Ksiazek took the match’s final shot with under a minute left to allow the Eagles to wind the clock down and keep their 1-0 lead at the final whistle.
All told, Northern Illinois outshot Eastern Michigan 11-4, including shots on frame, 3-1. Carr made one save and Frankenberg led both teams in shots with seven.
NIU will return to the pitch at 1 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 23, for a contest with Western Michigan.