In the dying embers of regulation time and the match tied 2-2, Miami’s Kelsey Dinges headed a ball past Northern Illinois goalkeeper Amy Carr (Hemel Hempstead, England/Townsend Church of England) into the near post netting to lift the Mid-American Conference leaders, 3-2, over the Huskies.
NIU (6-6-2, 2-3-2 MAC) rallied back from a 2-0 deficit in the first 25 minutes against the NCAA’s No. 6 scoring offense.
“We started off pretty slow and we couldn’t find a rhythm offensively or defensively and it took us a little while to wake up,” said head coach John Ross after the match. “Once we got going, Shelbi did a great job to get us back into it with our first goal and from there I think our kids really picked it up. Our defensive pressure was excellent in the second half and when we play like that, we’re very good.”
The Redhawks (13-2, 7-0 MAC) came out of the gates as the matches aggressor and forced two fouls on the Huskies, including one just outside of the 18-yard box that allowed Cori Frankenberg (Appleton, Wis./East) to take the match’s first shot off of the MU wall in front of net.
From there, Miami (Ohio) controlled possession and pressured the MAC’s top-ranked defense with a pair of consecutive corner kicks. The Redhawks were not able to convert on goal with the corners, but struck first blood on a throw in from Jess Bronke. Bronke heaved a long throw into the box, where Dinges headed a flick to Katy Dolesh, who found the back of the net from three-yards out for the first score in the 12th minute, 1-0.
In the 25th minute and from the top-center of the 18-yard box, Katee Wensinger dished back to Dinges outside of the box. Dinges fired and curled the ball into the far posts upper-v of the frame to give the Redhawks a 2-0 lead.
Miami continued to control possession of the match but Northern Illinois cut the deficit in the 43rd minute of play with daylight showing in the MU defense.
Ashley Neubeck (Lindenhurst/Lakes Community) slipped a ball to Shelbi Johnson (Bolingbrook/Neuqua Valley) inside of the 18-yard box and Johnson curled a shot to the far post past goalkeeper Allison Norenberg to cut the deficit in half at the end of the first period, 2-1.
With the confidence brewing during halftime, Ross said “It was a big lift because we were struggling to get in the game and for (Shelbi) to get that goal, it really gave us a burst of energy as a team and it gave us our confidence back to get us to where we needed to be.”
The tables turned in the second half as NIU became the match’s aggressor as it controlled possession and moved into high-percentage scoring areas. Coming off the bench in the 62nd minute of play, Nicolo Gobbo (Bartlett) entered the contest and made her presence felt four minutes later.
With a loose ball rolling towards net inside the 18-yard box, Gobbo squeezed her way through two collapsing defenders on the ball to find herself 10 yards from goal with only Norenberg in front of her. Gobbo took one light touch to put the keeper off kilter, and leaning hard to right and nearly off balance, she fired the ball at the top shelf to equalize the match, 2-2.
“It was a great finish. She’s been doing real well in training the last couple of weeks and she’s earned her playing time and the more she gets out there, the more comfortable she’s going to be and we want to see that for years to come,” added Ross.
The Huskies played with a swagger in their step but continued to pressure MU in the midfield on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. The defense was able to clear the threats from the Redhawks but NIU was only able to put one more shot on frame when Johnson fired a shot and slipped on the turf to put full weight behind it inside the box in the 74th minute.
The Redhawks got their second wind in the final two minutes in the match, starting with a shot that sailed just high over the crossbar by Kayla Zakrzewski. With less than a minute remaining in the match, Miami pressured the NIU defense and earned a corner with 20 seconds remaining.
Miami’s Jess Kodiak worked swiftly to set the ball at the flag and call a set piece play. Kodiak sailed the ball high with 10 seconds on the clock and into a sea of white NIU jerseys and red MU jerseys, Dinges got enough hang time in her jump to be the last player on the ball and headed it into the near post netting with five seconds on the clock remaining. NIU kicked off but were too far to put a shot on goal and the match ended 3-2.
Carr played brilliantly, coming off her line several times to thwart chances and making several diving saves to finish with six stops in the match.