The Northern Illinois University women’s soccer team earned a tremendous victory Friday night, defeating Eastern Michigan 3-1 at the NIU Soccer Complex.
The win marked the first victory for the Huskies (6-9-2, 4-3-2 MAC) against the perennial Mid-American Conference powerhouse Eagles (9-6-1, 5-4-0 MAC) since 2007. It also ended a three-game losing streak for NIU.
Goals from Gwen Sabo (Alton, Ill./Alton), Nicole Gobbo (Bartlett, Ill./Bartlett) and Emily Nulty (Omaha, Neb./Marian) fired the Huskies to the victory in their second-biggest scoring outburst of the season, behind only the 5-0 win against Chicago State on Sept. 12.
NIU head coach John Ross was thrilled with the victory and thought the Huskies’ aggressive and composed attacking display made all the difference in the match.
“I’m very proud of our team’s performance. They were great,” Ross said after the game. “We were very aggressive going at their defenders tonight and our quality decision making in the final third was great to see. That’s a very good team we beat – they won the MAC regular season last season. Our players should be very proud.”
Eastern Michigan controlled possession in the early stages of the match, forcing NIU goalkeeper Amy Annala (Oswego, Ill./Oswego) to make two early saves.
But it was the Huskies who struck first when Sabo nodded home a corner kick from Lauren Gierman (Prospect Heights, Ill./John Hersey) for the first goal of the season for the senior defender.
The Eagles immediately responded with a goal from their own corner kick as Bianca Rossi headed in her sixth goal of the season.
Despite the setback, the Huskies came right back and scored with yet another header as Marisa Knott (Rosemount, Minn./Rosemount) played a perfect cross to Gobbo at the back post for the junior forward’s third goal of the season.
“Even after Eastern Michigan scored, I really liked our composure to attack them immediately and get the lead back,” Ross said. “That gave us a lot of confidence and put us in the driver’s seat.”
Early in the second half, Gobbo turned provider by bursting down the right wing and cutting back a low cross into the path of a wide open Nulty, who slotted home a crucial insurance goal for the Huskies.
Annala made two more saves as Eastern Michigan attacked in the closing stages to no avail. The NIU freshman goalkeeper finished with seven stops on the evening.
NIU now owns 14 points in MAC play, tied for fifth overall in the MAC and just one point behind leaders Ball State and Eastern Michigan in a crowded MAC West.
Next up, the Huskies host Bowling Green on Sunday, hoping to earn another three points that would increase their chances at finishing in the top four overall in the MAC and thus earning a home game in the conference tournament.
Senior Day activities honoring seniors Sabo, Ashley Neubeck (Lindenhurst, Ill./Lakes Community), Allie McBride (Naperville, Ill./Neuqua Valley) and Lauren Noonan (Naperville, Ill./Neuqua Valley) will be held before the 1 p.m. game.
“We’ll be prepared for the game and it will be nice to honor our four seniors on Sunday,” Ross said. “They’ve had great careers and have been unbelievable leaders who have stepped up this season.”
Admission is free to all fans. For more information on NIU women’s soccer and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.