Northern Illinois Appoints Eric Luzzi As Head Men's Soccer Coach
July 1, 2009
DeKALB - Eric Luzzi, Northern Illinois' top assistant for the last three seasons, has been named the eighth men's soccer head coach in program history, Associate Vice President and Director of Athletics Jeff Compher announced Wednesday.
"As our assistant and most recently, our associate head coach, Eric has had a great opportunity to work with and learn from [former head coach] Steve Simmons as they have built a championship program at NIU," Compher said. "I am confident Eric will carry on the winning tradition of Northern Illinois men's soccer and that, under his leadership, we will move to the next level. "
Luzzi was promoted to associate head coach of the Huskies in March, a reward for his commitment and loyalty to NIU during his tenure. In 2006, he helped guide Northern Illinois to the Mid-American Conference regular season and tournament championships. That year, under the tutelage of Luzzi, goalkeeper Joe Zimka set an NCAA record for goals allowed average, and the Huskies set the NIU record for shutouts in a season with 14. In 2008, Luzzi was part of the staff that coached the Huskies to eight shutouts, a win over No. 2-ranked SMU, and a trip to the MAC Championship game for the second time in three years.
"All the pieces are here to continue competing for championships," Luzzi said. "We have great facilities, we have been in the top-25 for the last five years, we have a top schedule, and, most importantly, we have a terrific group of committed student-athletes."
A consummate Chicagoan, Luzzi followed up a stellar prep goalkeeping career at St. Ignatius High School as a four-year letterman and starting keeper at Saint Mary's (Minnesota). His résumé includes two campaigns as head coach for Schaumburg High School prior to his return to his alma mater, where he spent five seasons guiding the Cardinals.
"We're in Chicagoland, and that's a big deal because this is my home," Luzzi said. "The fact I'm able to stay here and now be the leader of a program that I've invested so much in over the last three years is exciting."
Compher agreed that Luzzi's Chicago ties were a large factor in the decision to promote the 33-year-old.
"He is a Chicago native with deep roots in the soccer community in this area, going back not only to his days as a high school coach, but to his days as a high school player," Compher said.
Despite living in the area much of his life, Luzzi didn't make his first trip to DeKalb until June of 1999. Upon arrival, he saw a program he dreamed of one day leading.
"I remember thinking to myself, `the potential for this place is incredible,' and how Northern Illinois should be competing for championships every single year," Luzzi said. "The fact that literally 10 years to the week after that, I have the opportunity to lead the team in competing for those championships is special."
Luzzi inherits a team that took fourth-ranked Akron to double-overtime of the MAC Championship game in 2008, and a program that has won a school record 56 matches over the last five seasons. The Huskies return nine starters in 2009, including All-MAC selections Ben Thomas (Fairfield, Ohio/Fairfield) and Brad Horton (Sycamore, Ill./Sycamore), along with Academic All-American Kyle Knotek (Geneva, Ill./Geneva).
"I really enjoy coaching the young men that we have in our program, and I'm thrilled to have the chance to help them achieve the next level of success," Luzzi said.
The son of Illinois High School Soccer Coaches Association (IHSSCA) Hall of Famer and long-time St. Ignatius head coach Jim Luzzi, the younger Luzzi has also logged seven summers working with the Olympic Development Program (ODP), including the United States Soccer Federation's Region II. In the winter of 2006, Luzzi was named head goalkeepers coach for USSF Region II ODP. During the summer of 2007, Luzzi traveled to France with the U-18 ODP squad as an assistant coach.
The Huskies newest head coach holds a USSF National "A" License, NSCAA Advanced National Diploma and Level III National Goalkeeping License, a USSF Youth License and a Dutch Soccer Federation Youth Coaching Certificate. A 1997 graduate of Saint Mary's, Luzzi earned a bachelor of arts in social science education and will complete his master's in human development from SMU this December.
The promotion to head coach serves as a first-class wedding present for Luzzi, who married the former Kim Rodr in May.
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