Freshman forward Matt Pritchard (Omaha, Neb./Creighton Prep) scored the first goal of his collegiate career Wednesday night.
But it wasn’t enough. The Northern Illinois men’s soccer team was unable to recover from a two-goal halftime deficit, falling to Valparaiso 2-1.
Playing in rainy conditions for the third-straight match, Northern Illinois (3-8-2) fell behind by a pair less than a quarter of an hour into the match.
Valparaiso (2-6-5) opened the scoring in the 9th minute on a goal by Charles Barden. Jordan Aidoud played a ball from midfield out to Barden on the left wing. Barden took on a Huskie defender in a one-on-one situation before slipping a quick shot just inside the far post to give the Crusaders a 1-0 lead.
The Crusaders doubled their advantage in the 13th minute. Nick Suker’s initial shot deflected back to Eric Nieto near the top of the box who fired a drive into the upper corner to give Valparaiso a 2-0 advantage.
Just as halftime began, lightning in the area caused a weather delay of just under an hour.
With just under a half hour to play, NIU cut the Valparaiso lead in half as Pritchard scored the first goal of his college career. Freshman Parker Thornton (Buda, Texas/Hayes) flicked on a header into the run of Pritchard who got behind the Crusader defense. Alone with the goalkeeper, Pritchard calmly slotted the ball into the corner of the net to give the Huskies a lifeline in the 62nd minute.
Four minutes later the Huskies had a chance to level the match. Thornton had a chance from inside the penalty area but his shot rose high over the crossbar.
On a quick restart in the 69th minute, junior midfielder Sean Totsch (Oswego, Ill./Oswego) fired a 30-yard rocket that seemed certain to even the contest. Totsch’s effort was denied however as Valparaiso goalkeeper Kyle Zobeck made an outstanding save, fully stretched out, to keep the Crusaders in front.
Huskie senior goalkeeper Jordan Godsey (Ocean Springs, Miss./Ocean Springs) kept NIU within striking distance with a quality save of his own in the 73rd minute. Godsey did well to palm away a shot from Jesse Ortiz that was low and to his right side.
Godsey finished the match with five saves.
The Huskies continued to throw numbers forward in the final 20 minutes, Pritchard and freshman Charlie Oliver (Crystal Lake, Ill./Crystal Lake South) each tested Valparaiso goalkeeper Kyle Zobeck in the final minutes but the Huskies were unable to find an equalizer.
Northern Illinois will return to conference play Saturday, Oct. 20, when the Huskies host Bowling Green at the NIU Soccer Complex. Game time against the Falcons is scheduled for 1 p.m.
For more information on NIU men’s soccer and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.