Huskies Date With History Runs Through Akron Sunday
Nov. 11, 2012
AKRON, Ohio – For a second-straight season, the Northern Illinois men’s soccer team will play for the Mid-American Conference Championship in Akron, Ohio today Sunday Nov. 11. While the Huskies are the defending MAC Champion, defeating Western Michigan 1-0 last season, they will have to jump the biggest hurdle in the country at Cub Cadet Field, beginning at 3:30 p.m. Central time, when they meets No. 1 Akron. NIU lost to UA in DeKalb Oct. 13, 2-0.
The Huskies (7-9-2) earned the right to play the top-ranked Zips when they defeated West Virginia in the semifinals of the MAC Tournament, 1-0, Friday afternoon on a 33rd minute goal from Jayson LeSeth on a direct free kick on the fringe of the right side of 18-yard box. It was Northern Illinois’ second victory over the Mountaineers this season having defeated WVU 1-0 on Oct. 27th.
The hungry Mountaineers were playing to prove and maintain their worth to the NCAA selection committee. Now, they will have to wait and see for the NCAA selection show and see if their number is called.
Host Akron (16-1-2) defeated Bowling Green Friday evening, 2-0, following goals by Will Trapp and Thomas Schmitt. With the win, UA extended its conference unbeaten streak to 46 games, tying the NCAA record set by Furman between 1999-2003. The latter of those years featured U.S. soccer star Clint Dempsey.
There’s no question that the streak is impressive but do not forget Akron’s last loss to conference opponent – Northern Illinois in the 2006 Mid-American Conference Championship. NIU went on to the second round of the NCAA Tournament that season, after defeating Akron 1-0 in the MAC Championship.
The Huskies have a chance at crashing Cinderella’s ball on Sunday afternoon and will be salivating at the chance for a second-consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament.
The Zips Head Coach Caleb Porter recognizes the challenge at hand against NIU. Following the win over Bowling Green, Porter said in Cleveland’s Plain Dealer that the Huskies are a motivated team, they play a disruptive set style and are a definite challenge for us.
Northern Illinois Head Coach Eric Luzzi has said this season that “this team has chemistry” and that “they like being around each other,” and chemistry is always a plus. The Huskies also return most of their squad from a year ago that won the MAC Championship and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Luzzi likes the experience that the team provides in postseason play.
“It’s weird, I’ve told people that you train and you play a certain way for 10 weeks and when playoffs come, all of that stuff goes out the window. At that point, you need experience to takeover and the fact that we have a good number of juniors and seniors on the field is definitely a big part of what we have planned on Sunday.”
Northern Illinois also features one of the top-netminders between its posts in Jordan Godsey, a senior from Ocean Springs, Miss., who owns 35 career shutouts, the 13th most in NCAA history. Godsey and the Huskies will be in quite a dual Sunday afternoon, as Akron’s goalkeeper David Meves is the NCAA record holder with 52 career clean sheets.
Luzzi heaped loads of praise on Northern Illinois’ keeper following Friday’s win over West Virginia.
“There’s no way around it, Jordan is big time. Jordan deserves to play at the next level next season. The number of games he has kept us in this season single handedly is pretty astounding and he had three first class saves. If Jordan’s not in there, we probably don’t win this game.”
NIU’s head man also likes the experience the defense brings to the table when the proverbial seas get choppy.
“We have three seniors in the back and one freshman so I think what the seniors do is give us a bit of steadiness in the moments when the other team is throwing numbers at us and pumping balls in and things are otherwise very stressful and very intense. So I think having three seniors back there gives us some calm and composure in those stressful moments.”
The storylines for Sunday’s match run deep and with all that is on the line for both teams, it should be – as the English say – a cracker of a match. Northern Illinois has never made consecutive appearances in the NCAA Tournament and will be looking to do so for the first time ever with a win over No. 1 Akron tomorrow evening.
Akron’s 46-conference unbeaten streak would then effectively end the same way it started – with a loss to NIU. Either way, history will be made Sunday evening in the Mid-American Conference Tournament Final.
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