July 10, 2009
DeKALB - The 2009 Northern Illinois men's soccer team will take on four top-15 teams and six squads that made the NCAA Tournament last year, head coach Eric Luzzi announced Monday.
"It's a wonderfully exciting schedule, it's going to be exciting for the team," Luzzi said. "With that comes a high degree of responsibility for the guys to be as prepared as possible far when we get together on (reporting day) August 14th."
The Huskies will welcome No. 9 Northwestern, Oct. 7, and host No. 12 Tulsa, Sept. 11, as part of the NIU adidas/Magnuson Inn and Suites Invitational. Northern Illinois will also square-off with NCAA Tournament participant Oakland at the NIU Invite, Sept. 13.
Northern Illinois is set to face another pair of NCAA qualifiers at the North Carolina Nike Invitational. The Huskies play the No. 4 Tar Heels, who lost in the national championship game last season, Sept. 4, and two days later battle UNC-Greensboro. The Spartans advanced to the Sweet 16 of the tournament last year, with wins over Duke and Loyola (Md.).
The Huskies round out their tour of the top-15 with a trip to No. 6 Akron, Oct. 17. The teams last met in the Mid-American Conference Tournament Championship, with the Zips edging the Huskies in double-overtime.
While the schedule features many tantalizing match-ups, Luzzi said he is approaching each match with equal attention.
"As fantastic as the schedule is, it can be very dangerous to start looking ahead to these games in the future and forget about the ones right in front of us," he said.
After hosting No. 16 Notre Dame (Aug. 20) and DePaul (Aug. 26) in exhibition contests, the Huskies officially open to 2009 season against in-state rival Bradley, Sept. 1 in DeKalb. Last time they met, the teams played 110 minutes of scoreless soccer in a contest that featured four yellow cards and one red card.
Another match to watch is the Huskies' Sept. 25 trip to Oregon State, a team guided by former Northern Illinois head coach Steve Simmons
. The Huskies also play Seattle on that west coast trip.
Northern Illinois' slate includes ventures to the Northwestern Lakeside Classic, Sept. 18-20, where the Huskies will see Lafayette and South Carolina. In addition, NIU takes on Wisconsin in non-conference action, Oct. 28, in Madison, and will host Milwaukee for the LeWang Cup, Oct. 20.
The Huskies' MAC card features home matches against Buffalo (Oct. 11), and Western Michigan (Nov. 4), as well as road trips to Hartwick (Oct. 3), Florida Atlantic (Oct. 25), and a Halloween treat at Bowling Green (Oct. 31).
Northern Illinois has finished second or better in the Mid-American Conference in four of the last five seasons, including going 4-1-1 in MAC play and making it to the conference tournament championship match last season. 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).