Aug. 12, 2014
Fort Wayne, Ind. – Entering his third season as head coach of the Northern Illinois University women’s soccer program, John Ross is expecting a lot of goals from the Huskies in 2014.
“We have a lot of talented players with the ability to finish,” Coach Ross said. “We’re expecting a lot of goals from quite a few people on our team.”
During the Huskies’ exhibition contest at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne (IPFW) on Tuesday evening, it took less than three minutes for that expectation to become reality.
Junior midfielder Sara Spaulding (Milton, Wis./Milton) scored a fantastic opening goal as NIU played to a 1-1 tie against IPFW in the Huskies’ final preparation test before the regular season kicks off at defending Missouri Valley Conference champion Illinois State on Friday, Aug. 22 at 4 p.m.
Taylor Pavlika scored for the Mastodons on a penalty kick in the second half to level the exhibition.
Coach Ross took a lot of positives from his team’s performance, especially Spaulding’s goal.
“We had our moments and played pretty good soccer,” he said. “There are a lot of positives to take from this game, and it was great to score so early. Sarah took a shot from about 25 yards out, got all of it and put it right in the side netting.”
In a match scheduled due to IPFW’s connection with the Huskies through first-year Mastodons head coach Jason Burr, a former assistant coach at NIU, the Huskies created several other offensive opportunities after the early goal. NIU finished with 10 shots attempted and three on goal, but couldn't replicate Spaulding's early quality finishing.
At the other end of the pitch, freshman goalkeeper Amy Annala (Oswego, Ill./Oswego) enjoyed a successful evening, playing all 90 minutes and making five saves. She was one of four NIU freshmen to start and eight rookies to play in the game.
“Amy had a great first game,” Coach Ross said of Annala. “She didn’t have any nerves, and I was impressed with the way she commanded her box and the defense.”
The Huskies now have more than a week to prepare for the beginning of the regular season, and Coach Ross is looking forward to taking advantage of that practice time.
“We’ll still be in preseason mode for a few more days, and then we’ll begin preparing for what will be a tough opening game against Illinois State,” he said.