Senior goalkeeper Jordan Godsey (Ocean Springs, Miss./Ocean Springs) made a career-high nine saves and helped the Northern Illinois men’s soccer team hold top-ranked Akron scoreless for 72 minutes, but it wasn’t enough as the Zips pulled out a 2-0 victory in the Mid-American Conference Tournament Final on Sunday evening at FirstEnergy Stadium – Cub Cadet Field.
“One of the hardest things to do against these guys is to get into halftime without conceding (a goal) and we did that,” said NIU head coach Eric Luzzi. “I was pretty excited for the second half. We had a chance there and we hit the post. If we hit it three inches to the right and it’s a different game.
“Credit to Akron, they were very, very good. I told Caleb (Porter) I thought their last 10 minutes was a master class after they got the goal, they closed out the game as well as I’ve ever seen anybody. But from our perspective, I couldn’t be more proud of our guys. Our guys gave all they had. I asked them not to leave anything they had out there (on the field), they didn’t and I’m happy with that and those guys represented what we are as a team, as a program very, very well. We will miss the ones who are not going to be back, we will miss our seniors. We’ve done well with those guys.”
The first real chance of the match came to the Zips in the 14th minute on a header by Dillon Serna. An Akron cross found Serna inside the penalty spot but the chance was easily collected by a well-positioned Godsey.
Northern Illinois recorded its first shot of the half in the 15th minute; sophomore midfielder Isaac Kannah’s (Plymouth, Minn./Prairie Seeds Academy) effort went high and wide of David Meves in goal for Akron (17-1-2).
Godsey made another save in the 19th minute on a chance by Aodhan Quinn. Near the corner of the box, Quinn shot back across his body but Godsey easily held the shot at the near post.
Godsey came up with a spectacular save in the 23rd minute on a shot by Scott Caldwell. Caldwell made a 30-yard run through the Huskie defense and whistled a shot that looked destined for the upper corner of the goal, but Godsey was up to the task.
The Huskies earned a pair of corners in the 34th minute, but were unable to test Meves from the opportunities.
Senior defender Rocco Taglia (Caledonia, Ill./Boylan) came up with a key block of a shot by Serna in the 42nd minute. From an Akron corner, Serna found space for a shot from near the top of the box but the Huskie senior defender cleared the chance away and the Huskies and Zips went to the intermission scoreless.
NIU had some good possession early in the second half and nearly opened the scoring seven minutes after the break. In the 52nd minute, a long throw by Taglia was flicked on by junior midfielder Sean Totsch (Oswego, Ill./Oswego) into the run of freshman midfielder Gabe Christianson (Cedar Rapids, Iowa/Kennedy) whose shot hit the outside of the post.
Akron continued to pressure NIU but, while he had to do well to collect a handful of crosses, Godsey was called upon to make just one save in the first 23 minutes of the second half.
The Zips finally broke the deadlock in the 73rd minute. Eric Stevenson fed a ball into the run of Saad Abdul-Salaam who slipped a shot under Godsey to give the Zips a lead.
Akron doubled its advantage just three minutes later. After the Huskies were unable to clear a corner kick, Quinn fired a shot through bodies and past a diving Godsey low into the corner of the goal.
In the 79th minute, Godsey stopped a curling effort from Stevenson. Just a minute later, the Huskies were called for a foul in the box and Caldwell stepped up to take the penalty for the Zips.
Caldwell fired low and left but Godsey read it well, stoning Caldwell. The penalty save was the second in as many chances for Godsey this season.
Godsey, sophomore midfielder Jayson LeSeth (Des Plaines, Ill./Maine West) and senior defender Mike Mascitti (Downers Grove, Ill./Downers Grove South) were named to the MAC All-Tournament Team. Northern Illinois finishes the season with a 7-10-3 record.
For more information on NIU men’s soccer and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.