The Northern Illinois University women’s soccer team clinched a berth in the postseason Sunday with a 0-0 draw against Bowling Green at the NIU Soccer Complex.
The Huskies (6-9-3, 4-3-3 MAC) outshot the Falcons (4-12-1, 3-6-1 MAC) by a 21-13 margin but couldn’t find a breakthrough on Senior Day on a beautiful sunny day in DeKalb.
After seeing the other results around the MAC on Sunday, NIU discovered that the point was all it needed to secure its place in the quarterfinals of the MAC Championship.
NIU moved up to fifth place overall in the MAC standings with 15 points. The Huskies can finish as high as third in the final standings and as low as seventh, depending on the result of Thursday’s match at Western Michigan.
“It’s great to know we’ll be in the postseason for a third consecutive season,” NIU head coach John Ross said after the game. “But we still want to go to Western Michigan and get a result because seeding will be very important in the conference tournament.”
Before Sunday’s game, NIU’s four seniors – Gwen Sabo (Alton, Ill./Alton), Ashley Neubeck (Lindenhurst, Ill./Lakes Community), Allie McBride (Naperville, Ill./Neuqua Valley) and Lauren Noonan (Naperville, Ill./Neuqua Valley) – were honored in a pregame ceremony.
Neubeck then almost had the perfect start to her Senior Day game, narrowly heading wide an early corner kick from Lauren Gierman (Prospect Heights, Ill./John Hersey).
The rest of the first half saw very little scoring opportunities as both teams defended stoutly.
In the second period, the contest became increasingly stretched with the Huskies and Falcons each chasing the opening goal.
NIU goalkeeper Amy Annala (Oswego, Ill./Oswego) made an incredible reaction save on a shot by Bowling Green forward Skylar Fleak before seeing Fleak’s close-range rebound attempt somehow skim the outside of the post.
Then the Huskies found the woodwork when Alex Elias (Phoenix, Ariz./Boulder Creek) headed a loose ball in the box off the crossbar.
Both teams had opportunities in the two overtime periods, but the MAC’s two top goalkeepers in saves – Annala and Bowling Green’s Lauren Cadel – refused to be beaten, resulting in the Huskies and Falcons sharing the spoils.
Ross credited Bowling Green’s defense while also applauding his own team’s efforts at both ends of the field.
“They sat back and pinched the game to the middle of the field really well,” he said. “We needed to have more patience and attack the flanks, but we’ll work on improving. Winning three points would’ve been nice, but both teams fought very hard in what was a tough Sunday game.”
The Huskies conclude the regular season with a trip to Western Michigan at 3 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 30. A win would give NIU a chance to finish in the top four of the MAC, which would result in the Huskies hosting a postseason game Sunday in DeKalb.
For more information on NIU women’s soccer and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.