Huskies overthrow Eastern Kentucky in season opener

RICHMOND, Ky. – Goals either side of halftime Reegan King pavong (Rockford, Illinois/Guilford) and Lea Gruennagel (Homburg, Germany/Intergrierte Gesamtschule Contwig) gave the Northern Illinois University women’s soccer team a 2-1 victory over Eastern Kentucky on Thursday afternoon (August 18) in the opening game of the regular season.

Kingpavong opened the scoring just 108 seconds into the competition and, after Eastern Kentucky tied the game, Gruennagel scored the winner in the 62nd minute to give first-year head coach Huskie Michael O’Neill a win in his NIU debut.

“It was the perfect way to start the season,” O’Neill said. “The girls worked hard and we ended up with a win so I couldn’t ask for much more honestly. We were ready for battle today and I think that showed that everyone who watched this game knew that every player in the peloton was giving 100% and it was nice to see it paid off with a result. I’m really proud of the group and ready to go again on Sunday.

It took the Huskies less than two minutes to open the scoring as Kingpavong pounced on a fly ball inside the six-yard box on a pitch to score the game’s first goal. Jordyn King (Menifee, Calif./Paloma) made the throw that found Kingpavong in the box. Her first attempt was stopped by Eastern Kentucky goaltender Lauren Seedlock, but the rebound was nice on the feet of the Rockford, Illinois native, who scored the game’s first goal.

“We have a good asset with Jordyn King“, O’Neill said. “She brings a different edge with the long throw, and it was nice to see something off the practice field. The fact that it happened so quickly and got us off to a good start was great and honestly we could have scored a few more.”

Eastern Kentucky had their first good look at goal in the 24th minute as Audrey Anderson fired a shot just over the NIU goal.

Two minutes later, Kingpavong nearly had a second. A throw-in from Huskie was sent to Kingpavong at the top of the box, but his shot was stopped by Seedlock.

In the 43rd minute, a long shot from Eastern Kentucky’s Maddy Lemery went just over the crossbar and two minutes later Gretta Gunn had a chance near the top of the box that was picked up by the NIU caretaker. Deighton Wamer (Oregon, Ohio/Clay) as the Huskies took a 1-0 lead in the interval.

Three minutes after the break, Claudia Muessig (Paw Paw, Mich./Paw Paw) had the ball down the left wing and fired a low ball in front of the goal but no one could redirect it to the target.

The Colonels equalized in the 52nd minute on a goal by Myla Sharpless. On an Eastern Kentucky free kick near midfield, the initial ball deflected and fell straight into the feet of Sharpless who turned and fired inside the post about 12 yards out to shoot the hosts at the level.

Just after the hour mark, the Huskies were back in front as Gruennagel gave NIU a 2-1 lead. Abby McHugh (Wauconda, Ill./Wauconda) picked up a turnover and played a short pass to Gruennagel who first hit him about 25 yards out. The shot hit the underside of the crossbar and went in as NIU regained the lead.

“(Eastern Kentucky) built momentum with the goal in the second half and we responded in the flow of the game,” O’Neill said. “That’s where the group is a bit different this year, a bit stronger and more resilient. I actually think our best part of the game was after they scored, the next 20 minutes we created a Tons of chances and could have had a few more thanks to some great crosses and wide play from (Madison) Looby, Kierah (Meier) and Claudia (Muessig) I’m proud of them.

Celia Lopez had a chance for Eastern Kentucky in the 74th minute as she slid past a pair of Huskie defenders to give herself space for a shot, but extended the effort, and in the final minute, Lemery took a shot just outside the box that got wide as the Huskies opened the season with a win.

Wamer made three saves in goal for the Huskies to pick up a win in his college debut, Seedlock also made three saves for the Colonels.

NIU will conclude its season-opening road trip on Sunday afternoon, August 21, when the Huskies travel to Indiana State. The time of the match against the Platanes is scheduled for 12 p.m. and will be available on ESPN+.

About Harold Fergus

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