OMAHA, Neb. – The Northern Illinois men’s soccer team saw its magical season end on Sunday afternoon, falling 3-0 to No. 2 seed Creighton in the second round of the NCAA tournament. The Blue Jays, the nation’s top defensive team, held NIU to just four shots in the contest.
“Creighton was the best team we have played in a long time, that is including Akron,” NIU head coach Eric Luzzi said. “(Akron) is in our conference and we play them once, sometimes twice a year. That team that we just played, on both sides of the ball, is about as good a team as I have seen in the last couple years. They [Creighton] are the complete package. On the ball (they are) very, very comfortable in possession. They don’t lose the ball easily or cheaply, the angles they create are good and technically they are very sharp. But on the flip side, defensively, they work very hard.”
Jose Gomez opened the scoring for Creighton (19-2-0) in the 21st minute when he one-timed a cross into the lower left corner past NIU junior goalkeeper Jordan Godsey. Eric Miller and Bruno Castro each recorded assists on the goal for the Blue Jays.
Creighton doubled its advantage just before halftime as Ethan Finlay received a ball from Greg Jordan and fired a shot past Godsey from 10 yards. The goal was Finlay’s 12th of the season.
Switching formations in the second half, going to more of a two forward attack, the Huskies held more of the possession in the final 45 minutes, but were unable to penetrate the Creighton defense, which posted its 17th shutout of the season, its eighth-straight.
NIU recorded its lone shot on target in the 61st minute as freshman Isaac Kannah forced a save from Creighton goalkeeper Brian Holt.
Finlay closed the scoring with his 13th of the season in the 88th minute. Castro sent a free kick to the far post where Jake Brown headed back in front of goal and Finlay provided the final header for the goal.
“It isn’t easy to get a team in the NCAA Tournament and now our expectation is, moving forward we are going to be an NCAA team every year,” Luzzi said. “When we remove ourselves a couple days away from the sting of this one, this will be a season that everyone in our program, and I, will remember a long time because it is going to set the standard for our program.”
NIU finishes the season with a 15-6-0 record, matching the best single-season win total in school history. Northern Illinois also won 15 games while reaching the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 2006.