Northern ends Western’s run

Western Media Services and Tom Loftus

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The big dogs will be moving on, but one loss wasn’t enough to send the Western Illinois Leathernecks home with the proverbial tails between their legs.

Western’s men’s soccer team saw its stellar season come to an end Thursday afternoon with a 3-0 loss to Northern Illinois in the first round of the NCAA Division I Men’s Soccer Championship. The game was played at the Northern Illinois Soccer and Track & Field Complex in Dekalb, Ill.

The Eric Johnson-coached Leathernecks thus end their 2011 season with a record of 13-7-1, with Johnson having taken the team to the NCAA tournament for the fifth time since 2004.

Western, which entered Thursday’s contest having won seven of its last eight games, dropped to 7-5-1 against teams outside the Summit League. The loss was just the second non-conference defeat by more than a goal this season.

“Hats off to Northern Illinois,” Johnson said. “They stuck to their game plan and were very effective on restarts.

“We really struggled with their size on corner kicks and free kicks. (Northern head coach) Eric Luzzi did a great job preparing his team.”

The Huskies (15-5), who now travel to Omaha, Neb. to face No. 2 Creighton (18-2) in Sunday’s second round, got on the board in the 20th minute when Sean Totsch scored from inside six yards. Isaac Kannah put Northern up 2-0 just before halftime, scoring from the center box.

“The first goal really hurt us,” Johnson said. “We needed to get to the second half at least tied, but that did not happen today. NIU’s service from the corners was very accurate and their players know their roles.

“The third goal was an example of that,” the Leathernecks coach continued. “The guy was standing right where he was supposed to and we were caught watching. They had really effective service and disciplined positioning. They also have great size.”

The Leathernecks took three shots in the opening minutes of the second half but came away empty. The Summit League regular season and tournament champions were limited to only one shot on goal, delivered by Daniel Lewis in the 84th minute.

Northern finished off the scoring in the 73rd minute on a goal by Mike Mascitti.

“They were extremely effective on the restarts,” Johnson said. “We were way better in the second half, but again, we didn’t find the net. We had a couple chances early to make it to 2-1 but we could not capitalize.”

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