April 28, 2010
|HUSKIE ALL-ACCESS HIGHLIGHTS
DeKALB - The Northern Illinois men's soccer team finished its exhibition spring season undefeated, and retained the Governor's Cup for the sixth time in eight seasons with a 2-1 win over Eastern Illinois, Saturday.
The Governor's Cup is awarded annually to the winner of a tournament between NIU, Western Illinois, EIU, and Southern Illinois-Edwardsville.
"The Cup always has a bit of extra meaning, but this year's games in particular really represented fall (regular season) games," NIU head coach Eric Luzzi said. "Both SIU-E and Eastern Illinois came at us with a lot. They battled hard, and we battled back. It looked like a fall game where there was a lot on the line."
The Huskies made it to the final of the four-team tournament by defeating SIU-E on penalty kicks, 4-2.
"Our guys kept their nerve and made all four," Luzzi said. "And (goalkeeper) Jordan (Godsey) saved two. Any time you save a penalty kick, it's a good save. But one of them was special."
In the championship match against the Panthers, the Huskies fell behind for the first time in the spring. Eastern Illinois' Grey Genenbacher scored with 13 minutes remaining to give his team a 1-0 edge over NIU. But the Huskies fought back with two late goals by Johnny Tyma to win, 2-1.
"Winning late was kind of the last piece of the puzzle," Luzzi said. "Our work rate was good, our energy was good, we competed, and it was just about finding a way to win, which I think defines championships teams. In the last moment of the spring, in a game that meant something, we showed the ability to be one of those teams."
Northern Illinois went 6-0-1 in its spring season (the SIU-E match counts as the tie), with wins over Loyola, Valparaiso, Green Bay, Milwaukee and Marquette. Luzzi was satisfied with the results, but more focused on the development of his team through the four-month training period.
"The personality of our team is a little more mature in some ways, and a little bit more professional," Luzzi said. "The number of guys coming to training early, or staying late, or working out on their own was more than it has ever been. The general attitude at training every day was business-like."
Luzzi added that it will be vital to incorporate the newcomers who will be joining the team in the fall into the 2010 team culture as quickly as possible.
"We worked really hard to build a certain personality with this team, and we got it to a good place," Luzzi said. "Now we are going to have to work really hard again in the middle of August to get the nine or 10 new guys indoctrinated into our culture. That way, those guys understand very quickly who we are as a team with our professionalism, our mentality and our culture."
The head coach, who will enter his second year at the helm of the program in 2010, emphasized the importance of team growth over the lossless results during the spring.
"The more important parts of the spring were the emergence of a new set of leaders, that every single player on our team got better individually, that our team got better, and the development of this very professional mentality," Luzzi said. "If those things carry over to the fall, I'll be happy."