Soccer opens under the lights

Despite an electric atmosphere in their first ever home night game under the lights,  Oakland University men’s soccer team could not overcome a late free kick conversion by the Northern Illinois Huskies and dropped a tight one, 2-1.

The party got started early with a pre-game tailgate, with plenty of food, music and give-a-ways that drew a crowd of close to 600 people; and the crowd was electric until the final minute ticked off the clock.

Senior forward Josh Bennett, for one, was excited about the crowd and could feel the difference in a night game.

“The atmosphere was awesome, way better than day games,” he said. “There was a lot of great support from the students. Day games are usually about a third of that crowd.”

NIU freshman forward Paul Hogan got the scoring started in the ninth minute of the game. Hogan tallied his second goal of the season, on pass that sailed over the heads of the Golden Grizzly defense, from sophomore midfielder Gael Riveria.

However, Oakland was quick to respond in the sixteenth minute on Bennett’s first goal of the season.

Sophomore midfielder Andrew Barrett and senior forward Jake Przybycien assisted on the goal.

“It was a good set-up from defensive third, then Barrett passed it in to Przybycien, who head it to the net and I headed it in,” Bennett said.

For much of the first half, the Golden Grizzlies carried the play, out-shooting the Huskies nine to six in the first half, but were unable to capitalize again.

However, the second half play was dominated by Northern Illinois, who out-shot Oakland, 7-2.

Oakland’s solid defensive efforts and a great effort on the part of senior goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt helped to keep the Golden Grizzlies in the game, while the offense started generating scoring opportunities late in the game.

In the 85 minute of the game, Oakland was whistled on a questionable pass-back to the goalie call that drew the ire of the Oakland coaches, players and just about everyone in the crowd.

NIU was awarded a free kick from just inside the 18-yard box.

The free kick redirected off an Oakland defender and was buried into the net by Pat Sloan, giving NIU the 2-1 win.

However the tight loss did not spoil the fun for the Oakland students.

Senior Matt Stachelski was one of the diehard Grizzlies and avid soccer fans in attendance Friday night.

“I enjoy the night soccer games,” he said. “I think it’s more convenient for everybody and it makes it more exciting to play under the lights. Hopefully even more people will come out and support.”

Oakland will face Southern Methodist and Tulsa in the Hurricane Classic in Tulsa, Okla.