The dream died tonight for the men's soccer team, like a candle blowing in the bone-chilling gusts at Akron's Cub Cadet Field, as the Wildcats lost in the first round of the NCAA tourney, 3-1, to the Zips. From what little of the game I was able to watch on the grainy, intermittent web stream of the game, Akron seemed to be the better team, controlling most of the action.
Akron opened up the scoring, with Scott Caldwell beating NU goalkeeper Tyler Miller in the 27th minute.. Early in the second half, the Zips doubled their lead with Quinn Aodhan scoring from about 20 yards out. The Wildcats would climb to within one, on Peter O'Neill's penalty kick conversion in the 63rd minute, but then Akron sealed the deal in the 77th minute on Darren Mattock's goal.
The Zips now advance to play No. 6 seed SMU, while NU finishes the season 11-5-5. The loss snapped the WIldcats' 11-game unbeaten streak, but the team can be proud of completing the first Big Ten regular season and tournament championship double in school history.
Meanwhile, the women's basketball team improved its record to 3-0 with a 69-62 win over pesky Illinois State. Details on that after the jump.
NU's win came as a result of a balanced performance from the starting five. Dannielle Diamant, Kendall Hackney, Brittany Orban and Morgan Jones all scored in double figures, while Karly Roser had 13 assists. NU was in control for most of the game, though every time the Wildcats seemed like they were about to pull away, Illinois State, which lost all five starters from last year to graduation, would rally to keep it close, largely on the strength of three-point shooting.
NU's run-and-gun offense and "blizzard" defense were effective for the most part, and the Wildcats got a ton of points off of turnovers and in transition. Orban had a knack for getting behind the defense, scoring a lot of her 14 points on fast-break layups. Diamant had a great game, showing off some nifty moves in the paint. She led the team with a double-double, scoring 18 and adding 10 boards.
Hackney had 14, and Jones had a much better performance tonight than her first two games, scoring 11, with 6 rebounds and 5 assists. She still looks at times like she's not quite in sync with the offense, sometimes chucking up long contested threes, but she wasn't as trigger happy tonight as she has been, using her athleticism to drive and create easier shots.
For the game, the Wildcats shot 47 percent and outrebounded Illinois State, 43-34. All five starters played 30+ minutes, as head coach Joe McKeown has yet to trust his bench. Some help could be on the way, though. My man WestsideBrandon, who called the game (see the highlight video above), reported that center Anna Cole will likely be ready to play next game, which will be a huge boost to a really thin front court. Diamant has been holding down the fort at center, and when she was getting a rest tonight, McKeown went mostly with a four-guard lineup with Hackney playing the post.
NU will be tested in its next two games: next Tuesday at LSU and Nov. 27 vs. DePaul. LSU's women's team, unlike its men's team, is really good, ranked No. 20 in the AP poll, while DePaul is ranked No. 18. A sweep of the two may be asking for too much, but a split would be great.