Sunday afternoons match between Eastern Michigan University and Northern Illinois University at Scicluna Field was a must-win for the Eagles, but instead ended in a 1-1 draw. The Eagles (5-10-3, 2-6-2 MAC), a team that has had a rough 2015 season, is currently on the outside of the Mid-American Conference Tournament with one game left to play in the season.
The Huskies (3-12-3, 2-6-2 MAC) came to Ypsilanti on what was supposed to be a celebratory event, with the EMU athletics program celebrating the collegiate career of five seniors on Senior Day, but even the slimming of chances to make the post-season wasn't enough to damper the seniors day.
Eastern Michigan women’s soccer seniors Chelsie Oddan, Megan McCabe, Megan Trapp, Julia Lombardi and Hallee Kansmann were honored by not only the soccer program, but also the athletics program. At halftime, the five seniors met with their families on the field and presented parents, siblings and grandparents with flowers for supporting their careers.
After the game ended, the underclassmen presented the five seniors with gifts and a speech that brought a majority of the five girls to tears with friends and family circling around to watch.
McCabe starts, concedes controversial goal
Megan McCabe, who was ruled out of the game earlier in the week due to multiple injuries, was given the start in goal above freshman Kaylin Williams in observance of Senior Day. Oddan, Trapp, Lombardi and Kansmann are natural starters for the team and that didn’t change on Sunday. But McCabe, having taken a back seat to Williams in the latter part of the season, found herself in a familiar position as the last defense for the Eagles for what may have been the last time.
The celebration, and the nostalgic feeling, was cut short for McCabe as well as the rest of the Eagles in the fifth minute of the match when a ball was played over the top to Northern Illinois’ forward Nicole Gobbo who put the ball past McCabe for the first goal of the contest. The plan was to pull McCabe after the first break in action, and Williams, who was waiting to be subbed in during the goal, would get into the game. That plan didn’t work, though. The goal, of which was argued as being blatantly offside by Eagles coach Scott Hall, gave the Huskies an early lead.
“We should have got her off a little earlier than we did, that’s my bad and I’ll take that blame,” said Hall. “But it’s the fine line of finding the right thing to do for a kid who has worked hard and done a lot for us, and get her on the field with the rest of her seniors. Again, it’s on me and a bad thing happened. But she’s a tough kid, she can move on from it.”
Sunday’s game saw a multitude offensive chances for the Eagles, but only one goal for the home team. Eastern Michigan rifled off 24 shots, 14 of which hit the net but somehow Huskies goalkeeper Amy Annala made 12 saves, three of which were decisive in keeping the draw for the away team, helping Northern Illinois to nearly spoil the Eagles plans of post-season success.
Kristin Nason had the most chances of players on the Eagles roster, firing six shots and scoring one goal, her seventh of the season. The goal, scored in the 45th minute of the first half, put the Eagles in prime position to take a victory and get momentum heading into a playoff deciding game against Bowling Green State University on Oct. 29.
The last ten minutes of the first half and the first ten minutes of the second half saw offensive possession, production and chemistry from Eastern Michigan that hasn’t been seen all year. Oddan, Trapp, Nason and Ellie Tillar had clear chances on goal on more than one occasion, but the Eagles forwards and midfielders couldn’t get the ball past Annala.
“We created enough chances to win this game, and credit to their keeper, she made a few nice saves,” said Hall. “But we have to be more clinical with the chances that we get, it’s been like that all season.”
After the Eagles draw on Sunday night it would be difficult for the team to make the MAC Tournament, but it is still possible. The Eagles would not only have to beat Bowling Green on Thursday, but Ohio University, the University of Akron and Northern Illinois all must lose the final games of its seasons in order for the Eagles to advance.
But looking even further past the end of this season and on to the next is something that Hall has had to think about, especially with the 2015 season not going as planned. Nason, who leads the team in goals, is an important part of the team going forward, but it’s clear that there needs to be more contribution from the rest of the squad.
“She [Nason] is a clear front-runner for us, she has pace and talent but we have to find some other players that will be dynamic with her and help create more chances with her so that we don’t just have to ‘live and die’ by her,” said Hall. “So I think as a group we have to answer some questions within the team and we all know that. She’s a great layer, but we need a couple more to go with that.”
One post-season match and a lot of circumstances sit between the Eagles and a playoff berth. Seven of the eight spots are filled, and the last one is up for grabs and could go to anyone. Only time will tell if Eastern Michigan will make the MAC Tournament.