Playing in its first Mid-American Conference Tournament semifinal match since 2007, the Northern Illinois University women’s soccer team fell to Western Michigan 1-0 on a frigid Friday night at UB Stadium.
NIU was the first No. 7 seed in the final four of the MAC Tournament since 2006 after its thrilling penalty-kick shootout victory over No. 2 seed Miami last Sunday. But the Huskies were unable to replicate that magic against the defending MAC Tournament champion Broncos.
NIU head coach John Ross applauded his team’s effort in what was a historic season for Huskie women’s soccer.
“We’re disappointed with the result but so proud of this team,” Ross said after the game. “The seniors led the way brilliantly, and we made some huge strides as a program this season that have us situated in a solid spot going into the future.”
Western Michigan controlled the ball for much of the first half, forcing NIU goalkeeper Amy Annala (Oswego, Ill./Oswego) to make two early saves. The pressure finally paid off for the Broncos as substitute Emma Kahn came off the bench, hit a first-time shot with her first touch then gathered the rebound – that unfortunately for NIU had ricocheted off Annala right back to Kahn – and scored from close range.
The Huskies manufactured a few chances through set pieces by throw-ins from Sammy O’Brien (Aurora, Ill./West Aurora) and free kicks, but NIU couldn’t fashion a shot on goal to level the game and force overtime.
Western Michigan finished with a 14-1 edge in shot attempts in the contest and will face Buffalo in the MAC Tournament Final on Sunday.
Annala finished the match with seven saves, including one of her best saves of the season early in the second half to keep out a powerful strike by Aubrey Sudomier. The MAC All-Freshman Team selection finishes the season with 115 saves, the most by any Huskie since 2004.
The match marked the final one for NIU seniors Allie McBride (Naperville, Ill./Neuqua Valley), Ashley Neubeck (Lindenhurst, Ill./Lakes Community), Gwen Sabo (Alton, Ill./Alton) and Lauren Noonan (Naperville, Ill./Neuqua Valley), who helped the program complete a turnaround in their four years.
“We’ve come so far since my freshman season,” Neubeck said. “This season we’ve had several wins over teams we haven’t beaten in awhile and made it all the way to the conference semifinals. I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished.”
For more information on NIU women’s soccer and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.