The Northern Illinois University women’s soccer team enjoyed its 2-1 overtime victory Friday against Central Michigan so much that the Huskies decided to do it again on Sunday afternoon versus Toledo.
A penalty kick from senior midfielder Allie McBride (Naperville, Ill./Neuqua Valley) in the second period of overtime lifted NIU (4-6-0, 2-0-0 MAC) to another thrilling 2-1 win, this time over the Rockets (3-6-1, 0-2-0 MAC).
NIU improved to 2-0 in Mid-American Conference play for the first time since 1998, the last time the Huskies won the MAC regular season.
“We played unbelievably well today, showing so much fight and determination,” NIU head coach John Ross said after the game. “Our fitness and physicality paid off, and we kept battling and took advantage of our opportunities to finish the game.”
The Huskies sit at the top of the conference standings in a tie for first place, and Ross couldn’t be happier with the start to MAC play his team has made. “It feels nice. Our girls definitely deserve this,” he said. “They put in so much hard work, and I’m really happy to see them have this success this weekend.”
Despite playing their second game in three days, NIU controlled much of the first-half action on what was a sunny Sunday afternoon in Toledo, pressing the Rockets well and creating numerous turnovers. Friday’s two-goal hero Lauren Gierman almost scored another stunning strike, but her effort sailed just over in the 13th minute.
However, Toledo came out rockets blazing in the second half, earning numerous corners and forcing NIU freshman goalkeeper Amy Annala (Oswego, Ill./Oswego) into a few nice saves.
The pressure eventually paid off as the Rockets took the lead in the 52nd minute when Alexis Tice boomed a powerful header into the net from a corner kick.
NIU held off another wave of Rocket attacks – largely thanks to Annala, who finished with a career-high tying 11 saves – and then the Huskies mounted a response in what became a game of increasing physicality.
After having a penalty appeal turned down when Sammy O’Brien (Aurora, Ill./West Aurora) appeared to be fouled in the box, the Huskies were rewarded with a deserved equalizer.
Allie Ingham (Arlington Heights, Ill./Buffalo Grove) received a throw-in on the right wing, dribbled around her defender and whipped in a great cross to the front post. There was Haley Cummings (Spring, Texas/Home School), leaping over a Rocket to meet the cross with her head and tie the game in the 75th minute with her first career NIU goal.
With parity restored, the Huskies held off a late Toledo siege while almost winning the game when Emily Nulty (Omaha, Neb./Marian) forced a great stop from the Rocket goalkeeper with a rasping strike in the 89th minute, resulting in a second consecutive overtime match for NIU.
McBride nearly won the match in the first overtime period, hammering a shot from 25 yards out off the right post and coming inches away from another spectacular NIU winning goal.
But the senior wouldn’t be denied, converting a penalty kick after Nicole Gobbo (Bartlett, Ill./Bartlett) was fouled in the box just seconds into the second extra session.
“That was awesome!” McBride said after the victory. “We worked our butts off the whole game, so to get that result against a good, physical team was great. And what a way to start the conference season. We’re 2-0 and heading back home now. That momentum is going to be awesome.”
NIU returns home for three consecutive MAC home games, including two next weekend at the NIU Soccer Complex: on Friday night against Kent State at 7 p.m. and Sunday afternoon against Ohio at 1 p.m.
For more information on NIU women’s soccer and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.