WATERLOO — Preseason Missouri Valley Conference women’s soccer favorite Illinois State faced sweltering heat and humidity in Saturday’s league opener at the Cedar Valley Soccer Complex.
The Redbirds faced a University of Northern Iowa team that is even hotter as the Panthers made a major statement with a 1-0 overtime victory.
With the gametime temperature hovering near 90, Illinois State and UNI battled relentlessly throughout an opening half that ended scoreless.
In the second half, the Redbirds nearly made it 1-0 when Natalie Vaughn-Lowe hit the crossbar on a shot in the 79th minute. The Panthers withstood seven second-half shots, thanks to the resilient play of goalkeeper Jami Reichenberger.
“I was just happy to clean up the messes I had to,” said Reichenberger. “For my defense to stay strong as we were was huge.”
When regulation time ended in a 0-0 draw, UNI coach Bruce Erickson suggested a change in the Panther attack scheme for overtime.
“We changed our tactics a little bit to attack their outside defenders that we noticed were getting a little comfortable going forward and attacking,” said Erickson.
The change paid off almost immediately as Sydney Hayden celebrated her birthday by exploiting ISU’s weakness with a perfectly placed assist to Brynell Yount, who ended the game with a side-netting finish in the 92nd minute.
“I’ve got to hand it to our girls,” said Erickson. “I look at our most fit girls after this and see how gassed they are. You know, the heat takes a lot out of you and they found a way to get it done today.”
Yount’s goal was her fifth of the year, and easily the biggest to date.
“Honestly, it was so hot out there at a point I could hear my heartbeat in my head so I was just glad I finally scored so I could stop playing,” said Yount.
“Just knowing we were the underdog coming into this one with them being the pre-conference season favorite felt great,” said Hayden.
The Panthers (8-1-1 overall, 1-0 MVC, seven shutouts) were picked to finish fifth in the preseason predictions and are now 3-7 in their history against Illinois State (3-5-2, 0-1).
“We know we need to stay humble, but this proves to ourselves that we deserved the win today and we need to come out this hard every game,” added Hayden.
UNI hosts Evansville Saturday at 1 p.m.