Sept. 10, 2008
Listen to Coach Simmons discuss the NIU Invite.
Game Notes in PDF Format
DeKALB - The Northern Illinois men's soccer team hosts the NIU/adidas Invitational, featuring Xavier, Eastern Illinois and No. 14 Northwestern, this weekend.
The Huskies will face Xavier, Friday at 5 p.m., and take on the Panthers, Sunday at 2:30 p.m. Northwestern opens the tournament against EIU, Friday at 11:30 a.m, and the Wildcats battle the Musketeers, Sunday at noon.
NIU is looking to build on a 3-0-1 start that has featured three shutouts. The Huskies blanked IUPUI to open the year, stonewalled San Francisco, and shut out then-No. 17 Bradley on the road.
The first 100 students to attend the Xavier match will receive free pizza from Papa John's, and have a shot to win free lunch at the "Chipotle Kick Your Burrito Half-Time Shootout." Sunday's match against Eastern Illinois is "Sycamore Day," and fans from DeKalb's neighbor are invited to watch Sycamore High School graduate Brad Horton take the field for the Huskies, and get autographs from the team after the match.
Xavier enters the weekend with an 0-3-0 record, but NIU Head Coach Steve Simmons said that mark is deceiving. In their last match, the Musketeers fell 2-1 to No. 13 Virginia Tech after going up 1-0 in the first half.
"Xavier is a much better team than their current record reflects," he said. "I know that they lost a heartbreaker at Virginia Tech, an ACC school, just a week ago."
The Huskies have never faced Xavier, contrasting a rivalry that dates back 45 years NIU shares with Eastern Illinois. The teams first met in 1963, inaugural year for NIU men's soccer as a varsity sport. The Huskies won that match 2-1 in overtime. NIU also came out on top of the teams' last meeting, a 1-0 decision in 2005.
The Panthers opened the season with a 2-1 loss to Valparaiso, but have have since beaten UMKC, Western Michigan and IPFW to enter the weekend with a 3-1-0 overall record.
"In the last two years they have done a tremendous job of elevating that program," Simmons said. "Adam Howarth, their coach, has put them in the mix of the Missouri Valley Conference chase."
Individually, the Panthers are led by reigning MVC Player of the Week Alex Harrison, who recorded three goals and an assist in Eastern Illinois' last two matches.
"They have got a couple of exciting players," Simmons said of the Panthers. "Anytime you've got a kid who is confident and really feeling it, you've got to pay attention to him."
For the Huskies, the players that are feeling most confident around the goal are also some of the youngest. Northern Illinois has scored seven goals on the year, four of which have come from freshmen (Horton with two, Jason Guehler and Tim King with one each), while two more have come off the foot of sophomore Juan Hoyos (Aurora, Ill./Waubonsie Valley). The other goal was scored by junior Danny Lopez (Buffalo Grove, Ill./Stevenson) who is in just his second year in the Cardinal and Black, after spending his freshman year at Oakland.
In addition to the matches at the NIU/adidas Invite, the Huskie women's soccer team will play Friday at 2:30 p.m., hosting Valparaiso.