Toledo yielded a pair of second-half goals and suffered a 2-1 loss against Northern Illinois on Thursday in its regular-season finale at sunny Scott Park. With the setback, the Rockets fall to 7-11-1 overall, 5-5-1 in the Mid-American Conference.
UT will now be the No. 6 seed for the MAC Tournament, which opens on Sunday, Oct. 28 with a quarterfinal-round match at No. 3 seed Eastern Michigan at 1:00 p.m. at Scicluna Field.
The reigning MAC Tournament champion Rockets finished today's division showdown with a 14-9 edge in shots and a sizable 6-0 cushion in corner kicks. Unfortunately for the Midnight Blue & Gold, they were unable to take advantage of those extra opportunites and as a result suffered their first loss in the series since 2003, snapping a 10-match unbeaten streak (8-0-2 mark).
Toledo controlled much of the action in the opening half and opened the scoring on sophomore Meghan Topolewski's first goal of the season at 31:21. The second-year midfielder won a loose ball in the middle of the NIU (8-8-2, 4-5-2 MAC) goal box off a cross from junior Rachel MacLeod and pretty much walked the sphere into the back of the net.
The only other quality scoring chance in the first stanza for either team came off the foot of UT freshman Geri Siudzinski just moments after Topolewski's goal. The Rockets had the Huskies on their heels when Siudzinski blasted a shot from approximately 20 yards out on the right side that just slid wide of the net.
Northern Illinois played with a more sense of emergency to start the second period and had its first scoring opportunity by Allie McBride with a little under 38 minutes remaining in regulation. The right-footed forward hammered a free kick from approximately 22 yards out in the middle of the field that hit the crossbar and bounced out of play.
Toledo did not panic after NIU's near miss, though, and retaliated with its own scoring chance by freshman Megan Connor with just over 33 minutes left. Connor received a cross from MacLeod and volleyed a shot that crashed against the cross bar and unfortunately caromed out of bounds.
As the second half wore on, the Huskies' Kayla Thompson deposited a shot into the back of the frame to tally the equalizer at 68:22. Thompson accepted a cross from Courtney Ksiazek around the top of the UT goal box on the right side, and she hit a low shot that found the side netting just inside the far post to tally her first goal in 2012.
NIU had the momentum clearly in its favor following Thompson's equalizer and the visitors took advantage of that, registering the match winner off the foot of Nicole Gobbo less than 10 minutes later. Gobbo outmuscled a Toledo defender for a loose ball about 25 yards from the Rockets' end line on the right side of the field. With her back to the frame, Gobbo turned to her left to create some free space and lofted a shot that caught Toledo freshman goalie Sam Tiongson off her line, ending up just inside the far post for her second tally in 2012.
The MAC-best, four-time league tourney champion Rockets had one final chance to force overtime in the waning moments of regulation on a shot by senior Rachael Kravitz. The fourth-year midfielder maneuvered her way past a couple NIU players and blasted a left-footed shot from approximately 25 yards out on the left side. Unfortunately for the home team, NIU goalie Amy Carr was in the proper position to make the save and preserve the road triumph.
Connor paced UT with three shots in the contest, followed by senior Natalia Gaitan, sophomore Rio James and MacLeod with two shots each.
Between the posts, Tiongson made her first MAC start and was called upon to make only one save in a losing effort.
Thompson led the Huskies with three shots off the bench and Carr totaled two stops to collect the hard-fought victory.