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September 21, 2023

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Men’s soccer beats Northern Illinois, secures home play-in game for MAC tournament

The BG men’s soccer team beat Northern Illinois 3-1 on Friday, boosting its overall record to 6-9-3, and Mid-American Conference record to 2-2-1. With the win, the team secured another home match against NIU (5-8-4, 1-3-1) for its MAC Tournament play-in game.

The game was the final regular season match of the year for the Falcons, and it was also senior day. BG seniors Abiola Sandy, Ryan Perea and Alec Perea played their final regular season home game at Mickey Cochrane Field, and capped off their senior day with a big win.

Head Coach Fred Thompson said he was pleased with the way his team played against a tough NIU team.

“[Northern Illinois] was a very difficult team to play,” Thompson said.

“We jumped up early, and then you are always going to be hanging on against these guys,” Thompson said. “I think that overall, except for that mistake we gave up for the goal, we played pretty well.”

The Falcons wasted no time, scoring at only 1:33 into the match, when freshman Thomas McLean scored off of a Cameron Hepple corner kick.

“It was just a good ball in by Cameron on the corner kick,” McLean said. “I just happened to kick it in, and it went off one of their players on the back post.”

Less than four minutes later, the Falcons struck again when BG goalkeeper Brent Petkus punted a long pass to midfielder Chuko Evwaraye, who sent a shot into the back of the net for a goal.

“It was a great punt and it just got a perfect bounce off the last defender’s head,” Evwaraye said. “I just waited for the ball to come down, and I just hit it.”

Later in the half, BG struck yet again when sophomore Hunter Van Houten chased down a ball played into the box, beat the goalkeeper and scored on a wide-open net. Van Houten’s goal gave the Falcons a 3-0 lead at the half with the three goals coming on just four shots.

In the second half, the Huskies regrouped and came out strong with a physical style of play, which wore down the Falcons. The Huskies dominated possession throughout the half, managing 13 shots to BG’s four, but a combination of Petkus (six-second half saves) and the Falcon defense held NIU to just one goal to secure the victory.

The victory came as BG’s third straight, the team’s longest win streak of the season. The Falcons will now look to ride the wave of momentum into the MAC Tournament against NIU.

First, though, the team will have the entire week off before the play-in game on Tuesday, Nov. 13. Thompson says his team is looking forward to the week off in order to get ready for the big game.

“The important thing is that we will be here at home,” Thompson said. “We have a long spell here, so we will have a little bit over a week off. We’re going to make sure people are rested, and the guys that got beat up today will get a chance to get healthy again.”

McLean said the team is feeling good about its play right now, and can’t wait to get back on the field.

“We are confident after three wins in a row,” he said. “If we play anyone here at the moment, it seems like we will win.”

Evwaraye said the team just needs to maintain its current level of play in order to be successful in the MAC Tournament.

“We feel pretty good,” he said. “I think if we come out playing like we have played the last couple of games, we can definitely make it through to the finals.”

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