Aug 15, 2013
DeKALB, Ill. - With six days of training under its belt, the Northern Illinois women's soccer team will face its first test of the 2013 season when it hosts Valparaiso in an exhibition contest Friday, August 16 at NIU Soccer and Track & Field Complex. Kickoff is slated for 5 p.m. Central time. Admission is free for all visitors.
Since beginning their preseason practices on Saturday, the Huskies have held two practices each day - one at 7 a.m. and the other at 1 p.m. - to get the team ready for competition. Head Coach John Ross has been very pleased with the results from his team in camp thus far, noting their preseason fitness as a positive. Ross and his coaching staff cancelled Thursday afternoon's practice ahead of the first preseason match and opted for other activities.
"The kids are going to be able to get some rest, we can give them their legs back a bit," said Ross, "we'll meet and do some different things the next two days but hopefully they'll be really fresh for the game. To be at home is very helpful, it allows you to get that extra rest, it allows you to get into the meeting room and watch extra film. We just have to make sure we're ready to play and that we give everything we have every play."
A result of the team's excellent preseason fitness could lie in the fact that NIU returns 22 players from 2012, including nine players with 10-or-more starts to their credit.
Amongst those nine returning starters is the Huskies top-returning scorer, Cori Frankenberg, who racked up four goals and four assists to lead NIU with 12 points. All four of her goals were game-winners. At goalkeeper, Amy Carr returns after earning an 8-8-2 record in goal with a 0.89 goals against average and six shutouts. Carr was a second team All-MAC goalkeeper in 2012, the first Huskie to ever recieve the honor.
Northern Illinois finished 8-9-2 last season, including a 4-6-2 Mid-American Conference clip that saw the Huskies claim the No. 7 seed in the MAC Tournament. NIU scored 20 goals and only allowed 19, the fewest in the conference, to record their first positive goal differential since 2007.
"The nice thing about most of these players is that they've been in this system for a year and a half now," said Ross. "They understand what we expect of them and they understand what they need to do in the games."
That kind of experience is starting to pay off for the team as well according to Ross.
"Now they're taking on that leadership role, to help the freshman and some of the sophomores that may be unsure here or there. The juniors and seniors are definitely embracing that leadership role right now in camp."
The exhibition will give the players a chance to face different opposition for the first time this fall, after six days of pounding on each other during practice. Carr rejoices at the opportunity to play physical soccer, whether against her teammates or against another opponent.
"We don't hesitate to beat each other up (out at practice), rather than doing it behind the scenes," laughed Carr, "it's what (our coaches) want and it's what we want. We don't want to go into a match not being ready to be hit so we probably hit each other harder than we do against our opposition."
Though the Huskies defeated Valparaiso last season in their friendly contest August 8, 1-0, the Crusaders went on to finish their campaign with a 10-6-3 regular season record and a 3-2-2 register in the Horizon League to finish third in the conference. Valpo ended its season with a 1-0 loss to Loyola in the opening round of the Horizon League Tournament.
Friday's match will not count for, or against NIU's overall record in 2013. The Huskies will open the regular season August 25 at NIU Soccer Complex versus Eastern Illinois. Kickoff is schedule for 1 p.m.