The Huskies (5-8-2, 3-2-2 MAC) couldn’t overcome a slow start against the two-time defending MAC East champion RedHawks (11-2-1, 5-1-1 MAC), who have now won five of their last six games in conference play by a combined 12-2 margin.
NIU head coach John Ross gave credit to a very good Miami squad while also applauding the way his players improved throughout the game.
“We’re obviously very disappointed with the result,” Ross said. “But give them credit: Miami is a very good, extremely athletic team. We struggled early, but I was pleased with our energy as the game went on with the way we started connecting passes and getting possession.”
Facing the team that knocked them out of last season’s Mid-American Conference Tournament, the Huskies fell behind 2-0 in the first 25 minutes as Kat Zalar scored both goals for Miami.
Ingham (Arlington Heights, Ill./Buffalo Grove) then gave NIU hope just before halftime, meeting a corner-kick delivery from Maggie Renfro (Chaska, Minn./Holy Family Catholic) to make the score 2-1. It was the second career goal for Ingham and first in MAC play.
“It was a very nice piece of skill from Allie; she caught all of it and scored with a great side volley,” Ross said of Ingham’s strike. “That gave us a bit of energy heading into the break, but unfortunately we couldn’t find another goal.”
Having outshot the Huskies 11-1 in the first half, Miami regained control early in the second half when Kelsey Dinges, the leading scorer in the MAC, scored her ninth goal of the season.
Renfro and Ingham nearly set up a dramatic final few minutes of the match, but both saw late shot attempts fail to hit the back of the net.
NIU freshman goalkeeper Amy Annala (Oswego, Ill./Oswego) made three saves in the defeat and dealt with numerous other dangerous situations as the RedHawks finished with a 15-4 edge in shot attempts.
Coach Ross wants to see improvement from his team when NIU travels to Ball State for another tough road match against one of the top squads in the MAC. “We have to have the mindset from opening kick that we’re going to get after it,” he said. “Playing on the road against good teams is always tough, but if we concentrate and play well for the entire match, we can get a result.”
The Huskies face the Cardinals at 1 p.m. Sunday. For more information on NIU women’s soccer and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.