Aug. 15, 2007
CLEVELAND - The Northern Illinois men's soccer team was picked to finish second in the Mid-American Conference by the league's coaches Tuesday.
"To be picked second in the preseason poll shows how far this program has come in four seasons," head coach Steve Simmons said. "That said, it's our goal to win conference championships, and we're going to do everything we can to defend our title."
The Huskies, who won both the MAC regular season and tournament championships in 2006, return 19 letterwinners, including eight starters from a squad that tabbed a 15-6-1 record and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
"2006 was a banner year for us in so many ways," Simmons said, "but that was last year, and now we're focused on the upcoming season. We have a solid group of guys who are willing to roll-up their sleeves and get to work."
Among the players returning for NIU are 2006 MAC Newcomer of the Year Marcus McCarty (Fort Worth, Texas/Fossil Ridge), who led the conference in goals and points and All-MAC first team selection Chris Rufa (Downers Grove, Ill./Downers Grove South). The Huskies also bring back All-MAC second team members Steve Algozino (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln Way East) and Joe Zimka (Algonquin, Ill./Jacobs), who recorded 11 shutouts and set an NCAA Division I record of 0.21 goals against per game last season.
Akron was selected to finish first in the MAC regular season and take home the tournament title. Second year head coach Caleb Porter welcomes back 15 letterwinners, including nine starters, from a team that posted a 13-5-1 record and captured a share of the 2006 MAC regular season championship.
Hartwick College was picked to finish third in its inaugural season as an affiliate member of the MAC after posting an overall record of 8-10-2 last season as a member of the Atlantic Soccer Conference. The Hawks are followed by Buffalo, while Western Michigan and Bowling Green round out this year's poll.
The Huskies start their season with an exhibition match-up versus DePaul, Saturday at 4 p.m. in DeKalb, and begin the regular season against Bucknell, Friday, Aug. 31 in Evanston, Ill.
2007 MAC Preseason Coaches Poll
2. Northern Illinois
5. Western Michigan
6. Bowling Green
Tournament Champion: Akron