ILLINOIS MEN'S SOCCER TEAM SIGNS FIVE TO NATIONAL LETTERS OF INTENT
National Championship Participants Headline Steve Simmons' First
Steve Simmons took the reins of the Northern Illinois University
men's soccer program last spring, he listed recruiting as his top
priority to bringing the Huskies into contention for the Mid-American
Conference title and an NCAA tournament berth. The veteran sideline
boss delivered on that promise this week with the announcement of
his first recruiting class at NIU.
Five prep standouts
have signed National Letters of Intent to join the Huskie program
next fall. That list includes three Illinois recruits in defenders
Steve Algozino (Frankfort / Lincoln-Way East), Chris Rufa (Downers
Grove / South) and Trinidad Correa (Cicero / Morton) plus a pair
of out-of-state forwards in Curt Zastrow (North Freedom, WI / Reedsburg
Area) and Cody Russell (Glendale, AZ / Cactus).
players comprise a strong recruiting class for us", Simmons
said. "We were looking for impact players from elite club and
Olympic Development Program teams who would come in and give us
an immediate impact and depth. More important, these young men are
quality people who provide a balance of getting it done on the field
and in the classroom. This class will be very influential in moving
the program in the direction we want to go."
area Player of the Year honors from the Star newspaper chain and
also drew First-Team All-State accolades from the Illinois High
School Soccer Coaches Association (IHSSCA) last fall after topping
the Griffin scoring charts with ten goals and four assists for coach
Brian Papa. Those accolades capped a 2003 campaign which also featured
First-Team All-Area citations by the Daily Southtown, Star, and
Daily Herald newspapers, plus a third consecutive All-SICA West
anchored the Lincoln-Way East defensive unit which posted 11 shutouts
last fall on the way to a second consecutive regional title. The
four-year letterwinner and three-year starter helped pace the Griffins
to a 29-17-4 record in his final two seasons. He is a member of
the National Honors Society and considered attending the University
of Illinois-Chicago and Butler University before deciding to enroll
in NIU's nationally-acclaimed College of Business.
The Huskie signee
helped the Chicago Magic club to Illinois State Cup titles in each
of the past four years and was that organization's Under-17 Player
of the Year in 2003 following an 11-goal, 26-point season. That
performance paced the Magic to the Snickers U.S. Youth Soccer Association
(USYSA) national championship in 2003 for coaches Mike Matkovich
and Jeremy Alumbaugh following runner-up status the previous year.
will be a steady central defender for us. He has very good timing
in the air
and not just when it comes to winning it defensively,
but also on the attack and during restarts," Simmons said.
"He is solid technically and makes good decisions under pressure.
Steve's experience with the national champion Chicago Magic club
team will greatly benefit him when he gets to Northern Illinois
Rufa drew IHSSCA
All-Sectional acclaim in each of the last two seasons, adding those
awards to a pair of Chicago Tribune All-Area certificates and two
Daily Herald All-Area honors. The two-time All-West Suburban Conference
Gold pick was named his team Most Valuable Player as a junior. He
helped anchor the defensive unit of the DGSHS squad which was rated
among the Chicagoland area's top ten teams for much of the season
before being upset in the regional final of the state tournament
to finish at 18-2-4.
registered six shutouts for coach Jon Stapleton last fall while
allowing more than one goal in only six of those 24 contests. Downers
Grove South won the WSC Gold crown with a perfect 6-0 mark after
posting an 11-7-1 overall ledger in 2002.
extended to the attack for a total of ten goals and six assists
in his final two seasons. He was a teammate of Algozino on the Magic's
championship run in club play.
That is only
one reunion for Rufa---who also considered going to Illinois-Chicago
before signing with the Huskie program---as he re-joins former prep
teammate Steve Goletz on the NIU roster this fall. Goletz earned
the starting goalkeeper job as a freshman midway through the 2002
campaign and held that post until suffering a broken hand versus
the University of Wisconsin in the second match of the schedule
last fall. He received a medical redshirt season from the NCAA and
will have three years of eligibility remaining.
is a tireless worker as a defensive midfielder and has proven he
can get it done with a national championship club side," Simmons
noted. "He is a tough ball winner and has the skill to keep
possession for us once he has won it. His height will be an asset
for us in the midfield or backline."
First-Team All-Mid-Illini Conference recognition as a senior, playing
a key role on the Potters' squad which won 23 consecutive games
and reached the IHSA tournament sectional final for coach Bill Stamper
last fall. Correa's presence on the back line was influential in
Morton's 37-5-5 ledger over the past two seasons.
The Cicero native
is a member of the Necaxa club under coach Manuel Munez and also
participated in the prestigious adidas Elite Soccer Player camp
last summer, with invitations to that event limited to the top 150
players in the country. His resume includes a stint on the Region
II Olympic Development Program team in 2002 plus a spot in the regional
pool last year. Oakland University and the University of Michigan
were among the schools vying for Correa, who is expected to study
criminology at Northern Illinois.
is very steady. He goes about his business without flash,"
Simmons explained. "He plays stronger as the match goes on.
He has been involved at some of the highest levels of youth soccer
in this country and it shows. He will have an immediate impact in
A two-time Second-Team
All-State selection in Wisconsin, Zastrow is expected to add scoring
punch to the Huskie line-up. He tallied 106 goals in four years
at Reedsburg, including 44 last year for coach Rich King. That prowess
enabled RAHS to compile a 34-11-2 record in Zastrow's final two
the school scoring records on the way to three All-Badger North
accolades plus a trio of team Most Valuable Player honors. He also
logged seven assists for a 95-point total last fall while his sophomore
season (2001) featured 28 goals and five helpers for 61 points.
The school finished 18-8-1 last fall following a 16-3-1 ledger in
his junior campaign.
portfolio includes experience with Yahara United, where he hit the
net 23 times for coach Tim Alexander. He was also a member of the
Madison 56ers club during USYSA Y-League competition last year,
and was recruited by the University of Wisconsin as well as Wisconsin-Milwaukee
and Wisconsin-Green Bay but opted to major in education at NIU.
a strong and explosive athlete. He has the quickness to elude defenders
and the pace to separate from them," Simmons said. "In
matches I watched, Curt often drew the attention of multiple defenders.
This made him work even harder for his space, which will only come
back to bless him at the collegiate level."
Second-Team All-4A Conference honors last fall, capping a three-year
varsity career for coach Jack Altersitz. The three-year starter
helped CHS to back-to-back 4A state championships in 2001 and 2002
as the Cobras posted marks of 22-1 and 22-4, respectively, in those
two seasons. He joined the CHS soccer program after lettering in
wrestling as a freshman.
a member of the Sereno 86 team which won seven state championships
in club soccer for coaches Harry Demos and Mitch Murray and finished
second at the USYSA national championships in each of the past two
years. He was also a part of the USYSA Region IV Olympic Development
Program pool in 2003 and is a four-year member of the Arizona state
team. He was recruited by a number of schools---including Bradley
University plus the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, Oakland University
and the University of North Carolina-Greensboro---but expects to
study finance in NIU's College of Business.
a top level athlete from one of the top club programs in the country.
He possesses elite D1 pace and quickness," Simmons noted. "The
attribute that separates him from other players in his position
is his ability to play at a high tempo for long stretches in a match.
He can stretch a defense and works tirelessly to get the ball back.
I am excited to have such a dynamic athlete involved in our program."
join 13 returning letterwinners from last fall's squad. NIU finished
fifth in the Mid-American Conference, which sent three teams to
the NCAA tourney for the first time in league history in 2003.
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by Robert Hester
NORTHERN ILLINOIS UNIVERSITY MEN'S SOCCER
2004 RECRUITING CLASS