Aug. 25, 2009
DeKALB - The Northern Illinois men's soccer team hosts DePaul in its final exhibition match before opening the regular season, Wednesday at 5 p.m. at the NIU Soccer and Track & Field Complex.
First-year head coach Eric Luzzi said while DePaul is a worthy opponent, he is more concerned about how the Huskies are coming together.
"It's about our team, for now," Luzzi said. "We're just working on principles, trying to get the specifics of the system that we play."
The on-the-field director of Northern Illinois' tactics will be the goalkeeper, a position that has three candidates vying for the starting role. Junior college transfers Chris Tidwell (Shabbona, Ill./Indian Creek/Kishwaukee C.C.) and Nate DuBois (Lemont, Ill./Lemont/Loras) have experience competing at the collegiate level. Freshman Jordan Godsey (Ocean Springs, Miss./Ocean Springs) brings an exceptional level of natural talent and athleticism. According the Luzzi, the decision on who to play is far from being made.
"I knew we'd have battle on our hands; I knew we'd have some difficult choices," he said. "I don't know if I was prepared for it to be this hard, because all three of them are playing pretty well."
The Huskies return 10 players who started at least 10 matches in 2008, and bring back 83 percent of their goal scoring. Included among the returnees are three-year Josh Karsten (Barrington Hills, Ill./Barrington) and Kyle Knotek (Geneva, Ill./Geneva), and Freshman All-American Brad Horton (Sycamore, Ill./Sycamore).
One of Luzzi's goals in the preseason is for the lessons those veterans have learned to transfer to the younger players.
"(One goal is) getting the freshmen caught up, and getting the group to the point where they know what's expected from a work rate and a competitive standpoint," Luzzi said.
The Huskies will have to be competing at a high level when they face DePaul, a team that went 9-7-4 in the BIG EAST, but was locked out of the NCAA Tournament.
"They really turned a corner about two or three years ago," Luzzi said of the Blue Demons, who made it to NCAA's in 2007. "They should've made the tournament last year, and kind of got hard done."
Tournament berth recipients or not, the Blue Demons will present an excellent challenge for the Huskies, who are looking to come into form for their regular season opener against Bradley, Sept. 1 at the NIU Soccer and Track & Field Complex.