Behind three second half goals, including two from freshman Len Heinson (Wuppertal, Germany/Carl-Fuhlrott Gymnasium) the NIU men’s soccer team earned a 4-1 victory Wednesday over SIU Edwardsville at the NIU Soccer Complex.
The Cougars scored first, but NIU answered with a goal from sophomore Richard Hall (Billericay, England/The Billericay School) less than 90 seconds later.
After halftime, Heinson scored twice and sophomore Cody Witkowski (Batavia, Ill./Batavia) also tallied as the Huskies closed non-conference play with a victory.
“Really happy for the guys, we got the (first) goal back within 90 seconds, so I think that says something about the resiliency of our group,” said NIU head coach Eric Luzzi.
“The big thing in the second half is we created chances but we were clinical in our finishing. (We scored) four goals against a team that had been on a four-game winning streak and had outscored their opponents 11-1 in those games. I thought on the whole it was a very good performance.”
SIU Edwardsville (4-7-2) had the better start.
Just over a minute into the contest Austin Ledbetter had a shot off a second ball from a corner kick that went wide. In the eighth minute, Jabari Danzy nearly scored for the Cougars after a cross found him alone inside the box, but he pulled the shot wide as the match remained scoreless.
In the 18th minute, senior Isaac Kannah (Plymouth, Minn./Prairie Seeds Academy) tested SIUE goalkeeper Kent Kobernus for the first time with a shot from distance that Kobernus tipped out for a corner kick. On the resulting corner, freshman Luke Read (Ilford, England/Barking Abbey School) rose highest but put his header wide of the target.
The Cougars opened the scoring in the 27th minute as Danzy gave SIUE a 1-0 lead. A long ball from the backline by Ledbetter found Danzy behind the Huskie defense. Danzy touched the ball wide of NIU freshman goalkeeper Drew Donnally (Plainfield, Ill./Plainfield North) and slotted into an open goal.
Just 86 seconds later, NIU (3-6-5) was back level on a spectacular goal by Hall.
The Huskies won a corner kick and Hall went to the corner to the left of the goal and scored an “olímpico,” a corner kick bent directly into the goal from the corner, finding the side-netting at the back post. The goal was the first of Hall’s NIU career.
Two minutes before the intermission, Donnally was called upon to make a spectacular save, tipping a long-range shot from Sean Baumann over the crossbar to keep the game 1-1 heading into the break.
The Huskies started brightly in the second half as Kannah forced Kobernus into a fingertip save in the 49th minute. NIU was rewarded two minutes later as Kannah played a ball across to Heinson for a blast from the top of the box that beat the SIUE goalkeeper and gave NIU a 2-1 lead.
In the 61st minute, Heinson struck again for his second of the night, his third goal of the season. Senior Andrew Palumbo (Ft. Myers, Fla./Bishop Verot/Darton College) whipped in a cross from the left wing toward sophomore Derek Ott (Cross Plains, Wis./Middleton) who headed it back across the face of goal where Heinson pounced, heading it past Kobernus from inside the six-yard box to double the Huskie advantage.
NIU added another goal in the 70th minute as Witkowski found the back of the net.
Freshman Giovanni Garcia (Chicago, Ill./Elk Grove) made a good play in midfield to find Kannah who slipped a pass to a streaking Witkowski. The sophomore from Batavia, Ill., slotted a shot past Kobernus to give NIU a 4-1 lead.
The goal was Witkowski’s first of the season and second of his career as NIU scored four goals in a game for the first time since Sept. 11, 2011, when it defeated Portland, 4-0.
SIUE pushed forward in the late stages looking to get back in the game but Donnally and the Huskie backline thwarted any comeback attempt. Donnally finished with three saves while making his first career appearance in goal for NIU.
The Huskies will return to conference play on Saturday, Oct. 25, when they travel to Buffalo. Game time against the Bulls has been moved back two hours from the originally scheduled time and will begin at 8 p.m. CT.
For more information on NIU men’s soccer and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.