A late penalty kick by Akron ended the Northern Illinois University’s undefeated start to conference play as the Huskies fell Sunday afternoon to the Zips, 1-0.
After a late corner kick, an Akron player fell to the ground in the box after seemingly no contact, but the referee judged that the Huskies committed a foul, gifting the Zips a penalty kick with just seven seconds left in the match. Sarah Savic converted the opportunity, dropping NIU to 5-7-2 overall and 3-1-2 in the Mid-American Conference.
“That’s a tough loss for us,” NIU head coach John Ross said after the game. “It shouldn’t have been a penalty; we certainly didn’t deserve to lose that game. But we can’t leave it in the hands of the referee. We had a couple chances to finish that we need to convert. Now we just have to move forward.”
The untimely and questionable decision that led to the Akron goal ended two impressive NIU streaks: the team’s longest undefeated start to MAC play in school history (five games) and freshman goalkeeper Amy Annala’s shutout streak (362 minutes, 31 seconds).
Annala (Oswego, Ill./Oswego) finished with three saves and snuffed out several other Akron chances but couldn’t save Savic’s perfect penalty kick.
Haley Cummings (Spring, Texas/Home School) came closest to scoring for the Huskies, heading a corner kick against the crossbar late in the first half that was dominated by the away side.
Akron, however, controlled possession for much of the second half and eventually were rewarded with the solitary goal that decided the hard-fought match.
NIU failed to score for the second consecutive game but still sit comfortably towards the top of the MAC standings with 11 points through six league games, four more than it had at the same point last season.
With a two-game MAC road trip coming up next weekend, Coach Ross believes his team will respond to a first conference defeat with two strong performances.
“Losing like we did today will definitely light a fire under us,” Ross said. “We’ll get back to work in practice this week and be ready for two tough games next weekend.”
The Huskies return to action at 3 p.m. Friday, Oct. 17, versus Miami (Ohio) before heading to Indiana to face Ball State at 1 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 19.