Freshman Kate Wirthlin (Mequon, Wis./Homestead) recorded her first collegiate game-winning goal in the 71st minute of play Friday afternoon to lead Northern Illinois over Kent State, 1-0.
The Huskies now have 11 points in the Mid-American Conference standings, only three points behind Kent State (14).
“We played with a lot of heart and at a high work rate today,” said head coach John Ross after the match. “After our loss Sunday, I challenged the girls and they worked very hard all week and to put that work into action made me very proud as a coach today.”
The Golden Flashes (10-4-2, 5-3-1 MAC) controlled the first half of play with their possession, outshooting the Huskies (7-7-2, 3-4-2 MAC) 4-0 in the stanza and leading in corner kicks, 2-1. Goalkeeper Amy Carr made three saves in the first half to keep the match deadlocked 0-0.
Shortly after the start of the second half, senior Shelbi Johnson (Bolingbrook/Neuqua Valley) fired NIU’s first shot on net, forcing Stephanie Senn to make her only save of the match. Kent State’s aggressive offensive play continued in the second half as it recorded three shots and two corner kicks before the Huskies would get back into the attacking third with a pair of shots off frame in the 58th and 59th minutes.
With the team’s trading play between the 60th and 70th minutes of the match, a slew of substitutions took place. Wirthlin stepped onto the pitch in the 68th minute for sophomore Allie McBride (Naperville/Neuqua Valley) as the center attacking midfielder.
Less than two and half minutes into her time off the bench, the Huskies were on the attack with freshman Nicole Gobbo (Bartlett) in possession of the ball on the right side of the goal and a group of NIU attackers in position inside the 18-yard box.
With other Huskie attackers drawing attention from the KSU defense, Gobbo slotted a ball into Wirthlin 10-yards from net and Wirthlin finished the ball into the right side of the net for her second goal of the season, lifting NIU 1-0 over Kent State with 19:56 remaining on the clock.
“It was a great individual effort by Kate to get that goal,” Ross said. “Gobbo was creating havoc today on the ball in her first start of the year and she did a good job to find Kate and get us the goal.”
The Golden Flashes tested Carr three more times in the match but were unable to breakthrough as the Hemel Hempstead, England native finished with a season-high eight saves in the match. Courtney Ksiazek (Naperville/Neuqua Valley) nearly gave the Huskies their second goal of the match in the 83rd minute when she fired a shot that ricocheted off the crossbar.
Northern Illinois finished the match with two shots on frame and five in the match, while Kent State fired 18 shots, nine on frame. The clean sheet was NIU’s sixth of the season and the most by an NIU team since 2008, when it recorded nine.
The Huskies return to action Sunday afternoon at Ohio. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m. CT.