Aug. 17, 2007
DeKALB, Ill. - Northern Illinois men's soccer coach Steve Simmons will get his first look at his 2007 squad, Saturday at Huskie Soccer Field.
To kick off the season, the Huskies will take on DePaul at 4 p.m. in the first of two exhibition matches this season.
"It's always fun to play DePaul, because so many of our kids played together in high school or in club," Simmons said.
NIU's fifth-year head coach brings back eight starters and 19 letterwinners from a team that won the MAC regular season and tournament championships and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 2006.
Of the returners, four garnered all-Mid-American Conference honors in 2006, including the league's Newcomer of the Year, Marcus McCarty (Fort Worth, Texas/Fossil Ridge). McCarty's 11 goals led the conference, and he also ranked first on the MAC's charts for points (26), and game-winning goals (7).
While McCarty will lead the attack, three other 2006 all-MAC performers will secure the Huskie defense.
Goalkeeper Joe Zimka (Algonquin, Ill./Jacobs HS) will start between the pipes, with fellow all-MAC honorees Chris Rufa (Downers Grove, Ill./Downers Grove South HS) and Steve Algozino (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way East HS) headlining a defense that will look to surpass last season's school record-setting 14 shutouts.
The Blue Demons are under the guidance of seventh-year head coach Craig Blazer. In 2006, Blazer guided the team to a 5-12-2 record, and DePaul finished 4-7-0 in the BIG EAST. This season, Blazer's squad returns 21 players, including 10 starters.
"They were a young team last year," Simmons said of the Blue Demons. "They finished strong and made the BIG EAST Tournament. I expect Coach Blazer to have them well-organized and ready to go."a
DePaul will count on a strong performance in goal by junior keeper Brian Visser. The Elmhurst, Ill., native recorded 4.53 saves per game in 2006, the 48th-best average in the country.
After taking on DePaul, the Huskies will face Marquette in Milwaukee, Wis., Friday, Aug. 24 in a second exhibition. Northern Illinois opens regular season play one week later against Bucknell at the Northwestern Lakeside Classic.