Nov. 14, 2007
MAC Tournament Bracket in PDF Format
DeKALB, Ill. - For the second straight season, Northern Illinois' men's soccer team will have to face Akron on the path to a Mid-American Conference Championship.
The Huskies (7-8-4) will face the 17th-ranked Zips (13-3-2) Friday at 6:30 p.m. (CST) in Akron for the rights to play in the MAC Championship game. In 2006, NIU beat Akron for the MAC title.
"It's always a big match and there's always a lot on the line when we play Akron," Northern Illinois head coach Steve Simmons said. "We'll go into this weekend's match with that mindset, knowing that we're going to get one heck of a game."
Northern Illinois, the tournament's fifth seed, defeated fourth-seeded Bowling Green 3-0 in the opening round. The Huskies will now look upset the top-seeded Zips, who defeated every team but NIU in MAC regular season play.
"We're going in as the lower seed, but at the end of the day it's two teams battling it out," Simmons said.
The teams played to a 0-0 double-overtime stalemate in Akron earlier in the year, and the Huskies defeated the Zips 1-0 on two occasions in 2006. Over the last two seasons, NIU is the only Mid-American Conference team to not allow a goal to Akron, "but in, 2005 they scored five," Simmons was quick to point out.
"They are a high-powered attacking team capable, at home in particular, of scoring a lot of goals," Simmons said.
The Huskie offense will answer Akron's attack with a variety of weapons, starting with Marcus McCarty (Fort Worth, Texas/Fossil Ridge). The senior forward leads the MAC with three game-winning goals on the year, and zapped the Zips with game-winning goals in both of the Huskies' wins over Akron last season.
Behind McCarty, Fraser Gibson (Dumbarton, Scotland/Dumbarton Academy) ranks second on the team with four goals, while Chris Johnson (Colorado Springs, Colo./Yavapai C.C.) has scored three in his first season as a Huskie.
In goal, junior Joe Zimka (Algonquin, Ill./Jacobs) has stonewalled the Zips to the tune of 23 saves and zero goals in 290 minutes between the pipes. Still, Simmons is keeping the position for competition, and Brian Van Buren (Sycamore, Ill./Sycamore), who has recorded three shutouts in four matches played this season, could get the start.
"All the guys need to be hungry, and with that hunger you get performances like we had against Bowling Green," Simmons said.
If the Huskies put together another outing like they did against the Falcons, they could move on to the MAC Championship.