NKU’s women’s soccer team snapped a three-game losing streak Friday night, taking down Horizon League foe UIC Flames 2-0 at the NKU Soccer Stadium.
The Norse improved to 4-4 on the season and earned their first Horizon League victory while UIC fell to 2-7. NKU head coach Bob Sheehan believed earning a shutout was important for his team after giving up two goals to Xavier in the last match.
“We gave up a lot of shots and were giving up goals that maybe we could be preventing,” Sheehan said. “To earn a shutout was really important for our team. To score two quality goals was really important for our team and honestly there were some times where we really looked good and really looked sharp.”
While the Norse shot 10 times in the first half, only one shot was on goal. The Norse did keep the Flames at bay, only allowing five shots in the half and just two on goal.
“In the first half I think we pressed a little bit,” Sheehan said. “In the second half I thought our center midfielders did a nice job of finding the forwards and the wide players.”
NKU senior forward Macy Hamblin had seven of the Norse shots in the first half, but was only able to put one on goal.
“There were a few that I definitely should have made,” Hamblin said. “I kind of feel like I let my team down when I don’t make those shots because that’s my job as a forward.”
In the second half, the Norse got a boost off the bench from Ally Perkins, who had started all seven games until tonight. Perkins said because the Norse are a well-rounded team, she is always competing for a spot in the starting role.
“I just knew I needed to re-prove myself to coach and I think I did that in the second half,” Perkins said.
In the 48th minute, Hamblin was finally able to convert when she deposited a Perkins cross in the back of the net to give the Norse a 1-0 lead.
“It felt great,” Hamblin said. “She (Perkins) did exactly what she had to do; put the ball right on my foot. I couldn’t have asked for a better pass and luckily it went in the back of the net.”
Perkins said the play was something the Norse have been working on all the time in practice.
“My job is just to run down and cross it and I saw Macy was calling for it really loud and I saw her wide open,” Perkins said. “
The Norse struck again in the 58th minute, when Samantha Duwell scored after Emily Soltes put a head on a Perkin’s corner kick to Duwell in the box. It was Duwell’s first goal of the season.
The Norse ended the match with 15 shots and four shots on goal while UIC had 14 shots and three shots on goal. NKU was able to collect eight corner kicks while UIC was only able to collect four corner kicks.
Hamblin finished the night with nine shots and a goal while Perkins finished with two assists. Four other Norse players were able to put shots up while eight Flames were able to get shots off, including Emily Valentine who shot four times and shot once on goal.
Emily Lohmann finished the night with three saves while Flames goalkeeper Tara Khayam, who made her first start of the year, made two saves and allowed both goals.
The Norse will take a week off before traveling to Youngstown State on Sept. 23 for their second Horizon League game of the season. Hamblin hopes the shutout is the end of the struggles the Norse had in the non-conference schedule.
“I think it is a definitely a confidence booster because we have been struggling throughout non-conference play,” Hamblin said. “As coach said tonight it was our first shutout so that’s positive reinforcement for us moving forward.”
The Norse will return home on Sept. 27 to face Wright State.
Hamblin still trying to find a rhythm after injuries
After missing two games earlier in the season due to injury, Hamblin is still trying to get back to full strength.
“I am still struggling a little bit and I probably should have taken a little bit more time off,” Hamblin said. “But it’s my last season so I was kind of ambitious to get back in.”
Even still, the reigning Horizon League Player of the Year has been able to put up a team high 32 shots and 19 shots on goal while scoring three times.
“I think slowly but surely if I just keep doing everything that trainers and coaches are having me do I’ll be good.”