The Northern Illinois men’s soccer team pushed fourth-ranked Marquette to the limit Tuesday night before ultimately falling to the Golden Eagles, 1-0, at Valley Fields.
Senior goalkeeper Jordan Godsey (Ocean Springs, Miss./Ocean Springs) made four saves in goal for the Huskies while commanding his box with a number of key catches and punches of crosses against the unbeaten Golden Eagles.
Playing in difficult, rainy and windy conditions, Marquette (12-0-0) used the wind to its advantage early on as they earned a series of corners in the opening 25 minutes of the contest. Despite earning the set pieces, Godsey and the NIU defense dealt with them well, not allowing any dangerous opportunities from those situations.
“Facing a 40-mile per hour wind, I thought our guys did extraordinary in the first half,” said NIU head coach Eric Luzzi.
“I thought Marquette had one decent chance. Having a stiff wind in their favor, and being a good team, I was pretty pleased with the guys at halftime, and I felt very confident that we were going to get a breakthrough. We had two or three good chances in the first half, against the run of play, and I thought we wouldn’t have to deal with that in the second half,” Luzzi added.
“Credit to Marquette, the second half was pretty even, they are a Top 5 team in the country and sometimes the reason why teams get to that position is that they finish their chances. On the whole, it was a very even game, both teams played well, both teams fought and battled in difficult conditions and Jordan Godsey was excellent for us tonight. He did a great job of commanding his box and organizing our backline.”
The best chance of the half came to Sebastian Jansson for the Golden Eagles in the 32nd minute. Jansson found himself alone at the top of the six-yard box and was fed a whipped in cross. Jansson’s snap header went inches wide of the post and the game remained scoreless.
In the 41st minute, senior defender Pat Sloan (Lisle, Ill./Benet Academy) had the best chance of the half for NIU.
The Huskies had begun to grab more of the ball and Sloan intercepted a pass in the middle third. The senior defender made a 30 yard run down the wing and fired a low shot from just outside the penalty area. Sloan’s attempt went just wide of the far post and the game went into the intermission scoreless.
After the break, the NIU (3-6-2) continued where they ended the first half, generating a number of dangerous opportunities.
Freshman defender Charlie Oliver (Crystal Lake, Ill./Crystal Lake South) set the tone for the half inside three minutes with a teasing cross through the Marquette box that no Huskie was able to get on the end of.
Junior midfielder Gael Rivera (Oslo, Norway/WANG Elite Sports Academy) had a chance from down the wing in the 49th minute, shooting just high of the Marquette goal.
Godsey was sharp on the other end, coming up with a spectacular save a minute later on a shot by Adam Lysak. Godsey’s diving effort was the best save of the match.
Momentum swung back to NIU and the Huskies came within inches of breaking the deadlock in the 68th minute. Sophomore forward Isaac Kannah (Plymouth, Minn./Prairie Seeds Academy) played Rivera in on the Marquette goal and Rivera aimed for the far post, missing wide by just inches.
The deadlock was finally broken in the 80th minute. Marquette played a ball from near the midfield line toward the top of the box; the ball took a deflection and fell nicely for Andy Huftalin. Huftalin made no mistake, slotting a shot past Godsey for his seventh goal of the season.
The Huskies tried to throw numbers forward in the final 10 minutes but to no avail as Marquette hung on for the 1-0 victory.
Northern Illinois will return to action Saturday, Oct. 13, when they host third-ranked Akron at the NIU Soccer Complex. The noon kickoff begins a full day of events on Homecoming Saturday at NIU.
For more information on NIU men’s soccer and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.