DEKALB, Ill. – SIUE men's soccer opened Mid-American Conference play with 2-1 road win at Northern Illinois Saturday. SIUE scored twice in the opening minutes on its way to a fifth consecutive win.
"It's a huge win to start conference season," SIUE Head Coach Cale Wassermann said. "We went up two goals early. Earlier in the season we had struggled with some slow starts, but we have fixed that and recently have been better to start games."
The Cougars improved to 7-3-1 overall and are 1-0 in the MAC. NIU slipped to 5-7-1 overall and 0-1 in the MAC.
Steven Bibas put the Cougars on top in the fourth minute when he took advantage of a deflection and slotted home into an empty net. Jorge Gonzales picked up the assist. Gonzalez then scored his MAC-leading eighth goal of the year when he headed home a corner kick from Jorgen Pettersen in the eighth minute.
"We were able to capitalize on some chances early," Wassermann said. "We had the wind at our back and that helped."
The Huskies got on the board in the 11th minute when Jan Maertins scored his fourth goal of the year for NIU.
"It was a really nice goal which came in transition and it kind of woke us up," Wassermann added. "From there we were able to manage the game."
SIUE played with against the wind in the second half, which proved a challenge.
"It was hard to get out of our half in the second half," Wassermann said.
The Cougars also were forced to play without goalkeeper Lluís Martorell, who was lost to an injury in the 62nd minute after making four saves. Noah Heim played the final 28 minutes and made two saves to preserve the win.
"Credit to Noah Heim, who came in and was ready to play," Wassermann said. "As I have stated, I have all the confidence in our goalkeeping core and it's a good problem to have when you have two goalkeepers ready for MAC play."
SIUE remains on the road to face Wisconsin in Madison Tuesday night.
"Anytime you play a Big 10 team you are going to get a talented and athletic team," Wassermann said. "It is a tough place to play and they get some good crowds."