Feb. 5, 2014
DEKALB, Ill. -- Northern Illinois University men’s soccer head coach Eric Luzzi announced the addition of four student-athletes to the Huskie soccer program. Defender Taylor Cole (Clarendon Hills, Ill./Hinsdale Central), forward Chris Paton (Glasgow, Scotland/Uddingston Grammar School), goalkeeper Drew Donnally (Plainfield, Ill./Plainfield North) and midfielder Giovanni Garcia (Chicago, Ill./Elk Grove) are the newest members of the NIU soccer program.
"We are definitely pleased to announce the first few members of our 2014 recruiting class,” said Luzzi. “This is an important class for us, as there is no doubt that we had a disappointing season last year. The four young men that we are adding to our team signify our commitment to get back to the winning ways that we expect every year at NIU. “
“We only lost a few seniors from last season’s team, so this doesn't need to be a huge class in terms of numbers. These four guys will complement the very good core of players that we have returning from last season, and will help us once again compete to be at the top of the MAC."
Two members of this signing class, Taylor Cole and Chris Paton, have already enrolled at NIU and are participating in the spring season with the Huskies.
Cole, a native of Clarendon Hills, Ill., comes to NIU after beginning his collegiate career at St. John’s. A defender, Cole spent three seasons with the Red Storm, redshirting his initial season, and will have two years of eligibility remaining at NIU.
After sitting out the 2011 season, Cole appeared in 13 games, including two starts, as a redshirt freshman in 2012, helping the Red Storm to a 10-win season and a spot in the NCAA Tournament. This past season, Cole helped St. John’s to 11 wins and the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament. Cole appeared in 12 games this past season for the Red Storm.
"Taylor Cole is a transfer from a perennial top 25 team at St. John's,” said Luzzi. “We had recruited Taylor out of high school, but were not able to make it happen with him a few years ago, so we were very pleased when he reached out to us after last season. Taylor was well-coached at his previous school, and he brings a very good understanding of the defensive responsibilities of a back at the Division I level. He's a very hard worker and a kid that is committed to winning, which was a key factor that we were looking for in all of our new additions."
A native of Glasgow, Scotland, Paton joins the Huskies from Stirling Albion Football Club in Stirling, Scotland. Playing for Stirling Albion’s U19 team in the Scottish Football League Youth Division this past fall, Paton scored a team-high nine goals. Last summer, Paton was named Player of the Tournament at the Linlithgow Thistle Tournament
"Chris Paton is a young man that had originally committed to come to us in August, but we were able to speed up his process and get him here a semester early,” said Luzzi. “He does a lot of very similar things to our main striker over the last four years, James Stevenson, who was a two-time All-MAC and NSCAA All-Region award winner.
“Although I have only worked with Chris for a couple weeks, I can already tell that he is going to be a difference maker for us. Chris is a very honest and hardworking player, but his soccer IQ and his finishing ability give him a chance to be a special player for us over the coming years."
A goalkeeper from Plainfield, Ill., Donnally is a member of the Chicago Sockers Academy program. Donnally has appeared in nine of 11 games this season for the Sockers U18 Development Academy team and helped the Sockers U16 team reach the US Soccer Development Academy playoffs in 2013. Donnally, who attends Plainfield North High School, is also a two-time Illinois Olympic Development Program (ODP) state and regional team member.
"Drew Donnally is a goalkeeper from one of the best academy clubs in the nation, Sockers FC,” said Luzzi. “Drew has always been a solid goalkeeper, but has really grown into an outstanding goalkeeper over the last 18 months. There was a stretch last year when he went eight or nine games consecutively without conceding a goal, while playing against some of the top academy teams in the country. Drew has a very good presence, and is an outstanding shot stopper. Drew is a very hard working kid who is always striving to get better, and he is a winner that inspires confidence in the players that play in front of him."
A midfielder from Chicago, Garcia played at Elk Grove High School, earning first team all-conference honors in both his junior and senior seasons. Garcia also earned all-area honors from the Daily Herald as a senior with the Grenadiers, scoring nine goals while tallying 11 assists in his final season. Garcia played club soccer with Team Evanston, helping his team win the 2012 Illinois State Cup, scoring a goal in the final.
"Giovanni Garcia is an attacking player who plays for the best non-Academy team in Illinois, Team Evanston,” said Luzzi. “We had been tracking Giovanni for almost a year, and every time we saw him play he impressed us with his competence and composure on the ball, his soccer brain, and his consistency. Giovanni is a great kid, who really wanted to be at NIU, which is important to us. Once he gets used to the pace and physical nature of Division I soccer, Giovanni will be a guy that will be a very good attacking piece for us."
In addition to the four players announced today, Luzzi and his staff anticipate adding to this year’s recruiting class.
"We are certainly not done with our 2014 recruiting class, and our staff is working extremely hard to identify and commit a few remaining players,” said Luzzi. “I couldn't be more excited with these four additions to our team as the foundation for our 2014 class. Our returning players have had an outstanding response to our 2013 season, and these players, as well as the ones that we will add to this group, will help us re-establish ourselves as a team that competes for trophies every year."
NIU will begin its five-date spring schedule on Saturday, Feb. 22, when the Huskies host Northwestern in the Chessick Practice Center as part of the annual NIU Coaches Clinic. The spring season will culminate with the Governor’s Cup, held this year at Eastern Illinois, on Saturday, April 19.