April 25, 2012
DEKALB, Ill. -- An eighth Governor’s Cup title in the last 10 seasons highlighted the spring campaign for the Northern Illinois men’s soccer team as they begin preparations for the upcoming fall season. The Huskies claimed the Governor’s Cup with a penalty kick victory over SIU Edwardsville and a 1-0 win over Eastern Illinois.
"On the whole, I was pretty pleased with the spring season,” said NIU head coach Eric Luzzi. “From a soccer standpoint, our guys continue to evolve rapidly. The quality of our attacking play in the last month of the spring season was pretty impressive at times. Even though we just ended the spring season, I am already excited for the fall. When we add a very talented freshman class to our current team, I think we will have the potential to be a very potent attacking team this fall."
In the opening match of the Governor’s Cup, NIU fell behind in the first minute to SIU Edwardsville on a goal off a free kick from 20 yards out. The Huskies dominated possession for the remainder of the first half but were unable to find a breakthrough goal. Just 15 seconds after kicking off the second half, NIU found the back of the net, leveling the match behind a goal from Isaac Kannah.
Unable to net a winning goal, the match headed to penalty kicks where Jordan Godsey made a pair of saves to help NIU advance, 3-1.
In the final, the Huskies played Eastern Illinois who defeated Western Illinois on penalty kicks in the other semifinal. Scoreless at the half, Kannah again netted a second half goal; breaking the deadlock midway through the stanza to give NIU a 1-0 lead. The Huskie defense maintained a clean sheet the rest of the way as NIU retained the Cup for the fourth consecutive spring.
While winning the Cup is a significant team goal for the Huskies during the spring season, Luzzi points out that the main goal of the spring is on the individual.
"The goal of our spring season is individual development,” Luzzi explained. “ I feel really good about how our guys have improved over the course of the last three months, and I couldn't be more excited to get our group back together in August. I think there are a lot of pieces in place for us to have a special season this fall."
Prior to the Governor’s Cup, NIU opened its spring season indoors on Feb. 25 with a 3-3 draw against Valparaiso, the Horizon League Champions from this past season. A month later, March 24, the Huskies returned to action with their first outdoor game of the spring, playing to a scoreless draw against defending Big East Champion Marquette.
A week later (March 31), NIU reregistered its first win of the spring as they Huskies raced past UIC, 3-0, in their final tune-up for the Governor’s Cup.
After retaining the Governor’s Cup, the injury-riddled Huskies had one final match to conclude the spring. NIU faced Division II Lewis University this past Saturday and were surprised by the Flyers with a 1-0 loss, the first spring setback for the Huskies since 2009.
Despite the sour ending to the spring, Luzzi believes the growth the team experienced this spring will pay dividends this coming fall.
"There is a lot more to the spring season than just soccer,” said Luzzi. “It also allows our new team to begin to form our personality without last years' Seniors. We went through some pretty typical growing pains early in the semester, but it gave us the chance to deal with some issues now rather than in the fall when there is so much more on the line. We had a fair amount of adversity to deal with this spring--lots of injuries, some inconsistent performances, and our first loss in a spring game since 2009--and I think our team will be a lot stronger this fall after having dealt with a lot of these things."