Oct. 19, 2009
DeKALB - The Northern Illinois men's soccer team will take the field Tuesday looking for a school record. But it is not your typical record for goals scored, or opponents shut out.
The Huskies will try to win rights to the LeWang Cup for a record fourth straight season when they host Milwaukee at 3 p.m. at the NIU Soccer and Track & Field Complex. In 2006, Northern Illinois recaptured the cup, and has held it with a win in 2007, and a tie last season.
"The cup definitely adds something to the match," NIU Head Coach Eric Luzzi said. "That little something extra on the line should gives our guys a bit more motivation to come out and bring the energy we need to have."
The Panthers enter Tuesday's contest with a 3-8-2 (2-2-2 Horizon League) record, but have picked up their level of play recently. After winning one match in its first 10, Milwaukee has won two of its last three games. The Panther's have struggled to find the net this season, totaling just 11 goals. Milwaukee has displayed variety in their offensive, with four players totaling two goals.
"They are a team that has been in very good form lately," Luzzi said. "They're going to be good, and games between us are always tight."
Northern Illinois will be playing at home for the last time in October, as the Huskies hit the road for three matches before returning to DeKalb to take on Western Michigan in the regular season finale.
"We're at a point where every game is absolutely crucial," Luzzi said. "Our goals and expectations are still the same as they were at the beginning of the season, and most of the goals we set for ourselves are very attainable if we have a very strong end of the season."
The LeWang Cup is named for John LeWang, a former assistant at Milwaukee and head coach of Northern Illinois, who died in a car accident after the 1980 season. The series began in 1981 and has been played in every year since. The Panthers hold a 16-10-2 advantage in cup games. Luzzi knows getting one win closer to evening that record will be bringing the same intensity the Huskies brought Saturday night at No. 1 Akron, where they fell in a close 1-0 decision.
"We don't have a night game against the number one team in the country tomorrow," he said. "But the guys still have to find a way to come tomorrow's game with the same energy as Saturday night to get a win."
Northern Illinois follows the Milwaukee match with a MAC road trip to Florida Atlantic, Sunday, October 25.