Aug. 29, 2008
DeKALB - The first match at the Northern Illinois Soccer/Track and Field Complex and the first match for Carrie Barker as the head women's soccer coach at NIU was a success, as the Huskies defeated Eastern Illinois, 1-0, Friday.
"It's very exciting to start up the season in this beautiful complex and to get a win," Barker said. "You can't top that."
Senior Thea Johnson (Homewood, Ill./Homewood-Flossmoor) provided the game-winning goal for the Huskies (1-0, 0-0 Mid-American Conference). Johnson dribbled into the box and fired a shot at Panther keeper Kaylin Lorbert. The goalkeeper deflected the shot back to Johnson, who put the rebound in the back of the net in the 31st minute.
"It was a great individual effort by Thea to create that goal and make it happen," Barker said.
After a slow start, the Huskies acclimated to their new surface and controlled the match. Northern Illinois laid seven shots on goal, including five from Johnson. Eastern Illinois managed just four shots in the match, none of which challenged junior goalkeeper Lindsey Curnock (Batavia, Ill./Batavia).
"It took us about 15 minutes to get used to the field," Barker said. "It was the first time we ever kicked a ball on the field, or even ran on the field. Once we understood it, we could play the way we wanted to play."
Barker credited the depth of her team for the Huskies' sustained pressure that kept Eastern Illinois on its heels for the last 75 minutes of the match.
"Our subs were a huge key," she said. "The play didn't drop, we actually became stronger."
The first-year head coach was also impressed with her team's ability to share responsibility on the field.
"In terms of us defending and attacking, we did those things as a unit, and that was an absolutely brilliant thing to see," Barker said.
Northern Illinois has now won its last five season openers, and the Huskies are 9-5-2 in openers overall.
The Huskies take on Georgia Southern, Sunday at 11 a.m. A win would give Barker and her team the title at the Northern Illinois Invitational.