DeKalb | It’s tough to take a spot away from a player who started there every game last season, but freshman Cody Witkowski has done just that for men’s soccer.
In NIU’s two games over the weekend, Witkowski started at right back both games, a spot previously held by sophomore Charlie Oliver.
In 2012, Oliver played just about every game at right back, but the emergence of Witkowski has pushed Oliver up into a more attacking role for the Huskies.
“Well Cody has played, so far this season, almost every position on the field except for goalkeeper and striker,” said head coach Eric Luzzi. “So I think the thing about Cody is he’s just a good soccer player and he’s got a good soccer brain and he doesn’t play like a freshman.”
Witkowski, a native of Batavia, has played in all six games this season for NIU, starting four of them. He has also spent time at left back, taking a spot away from junior Shawn Vroom.
As a player, Witkowski is a solid part of the team. He doesn’t make too many mistakes at the back, seems comfortable with the ball at his feet and can also bring a bit of a physical presence to the defense.
“I’m comfortable anywhere in the back line,” Witkowski said. “[I] just work hard and find the open pass and just play as hard as I can to help the team out.”
Witkowski can also get forward, whether it’s from the outside back spot or when he is in the midfield. In NIU’s overtime loss to Evansville on Sept. 6, Witkowski had a goal with four shots, three of them on frame.
Witkowski said the biggest advantage NIU has for him is its location.
“It’s close to home,” Witkowski said. “I live ... 30 minutes from here so it’s a perfect fit. I love the facilities; the facilities here are great. The coaching staff and the guys, [I] knew most of the guys coming in ’cause I played with them before.”
In high school, Witkowski earned an all-state nod as he captained a Batavia high school side that won its regional championship his senior year. He was also named all-conference three times and played all four years at Batavia.
Witkowski played his club ball for the Chicago Fire Academy, an experience Luzzi said will help him in the long run.
“He played for a very good academy team,” Luzzi said. “He’s been in big games in his life before and he kind of goes out there and he just gets the job done for us no matter where we need to put him in a given situation. Cody’s done very well so far.”
The transition from high school and club soccer to Div. I ball can be a tough one, but Witkowski said he fits right in.
“Loving it, it’s perfect,” Witkowski said. “It’s a great fit and I’m glad I came here. Coaches and staff are great, teammates are great.”