DeKALB — The NIU women’s soccer team hopes a new focus on techniques in summer camp will bring them success this season starting Thursday.
Last season, the Huskies struggled. They went 1-9 and scored four goals. Due to COVID-19, the season took place during the Spring 2021 semester.
Haley Hoppe, a graduate student forward, said that despite the record, a spring season with few fans and games taught Haley to appreciate her time in the sport.
“I think COVID shocked everyone in many ways,”Hoppe said. “Something I’ve been trying to practice a lot more is being grateful, having gratitude, practicing gratitude and things like that. Just not taking for granted the time that you do have on the pitch because obviously, it goes by really fast.”
Julie Colhoff, the head coach, is focused entirely on the coming season. Colhoff and the Huskies want to move from a direct play approach to possession-based soccer.
Coach Colhoff believes the team she’s developed has the skills best suited to the style that prioritizes passing and ball control.
“I think we’re at our best when we are playing feet and playing in limited touches,” Colhoff said. “Can we work a ball to dictate the tempo by retaining possession rather than playing direct every time and trying to run it down? There will be moments where we go direct when the cues tell us to, but for the most part, it’s how we can build right through our midfield and build through our feet as often as possible.”
The Huskies’ focus on possession play comes after being outmatched 151-62 in shot attempts last season, though it’s far from new to the program. Hoppe stated that the gradual adjustment to possession-based soccer was a process that has taken time.
“When I first got here, it was a very different style of play,”Hoppe said. “It was very direct and something we’ve been working on year after year is like getting to that more possession-based play. It’s something that I feel like we have been working really hard toward, and something I’m really excited about this year, specifically because we have a lot of talented players.”
Hoppe scored two goals last year, matching the total of Kierah Meier, sophomore forward and Mid American Conference All-Freshman.
Colhoff stated that preseason camp was successful because Colhoff has a better grasp of the different strategies and techniques.
“I think probably our technical ability is better this season,” Colhoff said. “Overall, they’re buying into different tactics with less resistance ideas and more like willingness overall, which I think has paid off so far in our session.”
NIU was able test their new skills with an exhibition match against the University of Northern Iowa on Aug. 8. The Huskies lost 1-0 to UNI on a last-minute goal. The game for Colhoff was not only used to determine where her team stood before their season opener.
“Now we know what our strengths are and what we still need to work on,”Colhoff spoke at NIU Media Day, Aug. 9.
NIU opens its regular season on Aug. 19 in Milwaukee, with a road meet with the University of Milwaukee Panthers. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. and can be viewed on ESPN+.