Roster depth can play a huge part in a postseason run, and early on in the season the men’s soccer team is showing it has a well-rounded group of guys.
In its first two games against Cincinnati and Ohio State the Huskies have used 17 of their 23 players. To make that number even more impressive, NIU is also missing last season’s leading goal scorer in Gael Rivera, who is recovering from an ACL tear in the spring. If you really want to look at it, the Huskies are actually using 17 of the 22 players that are available to them.
“It’s early to tell, but it could end up being a defining quality of our team,” said head coach Eric Luzzi.
Over the weekend the Huskies started with Andrew Glaeser in the net against Cincinnati, and it was the red shirt sophomore’s first start of his Huskie career. Glaeser impressed by making a few good saves and keeping the shutout in the season opener.
The next game against Ohio State, Luzzi wasn’t afraid to put senior Miles Herbert in the goal even after Glaeser’s shutout. Competition for the No. 1 goalie spot was one of the themes of preseason, and it looks like that battle is continuing into the year.
On defense, there was only one change from the first game to the second. Charlie Oliver, Dusty Page and Sean Totsch started both games, while Shawn Vroom started against Cincinnati and freshman Cody Witkowski started against Ohio State. Bringing in a true freshman against the likes of Ohio State is an example Luzzi isn’t afraid of putting his new guys in.
In the midfield, there were some familiar faces in Jayson LeSeth, Kyle Crichton, Bertrand Gaschot and Isaac Kannah, as well as with having Paul Hogan coming off the bench, but new guys also stepped into fight for their place.
Andrew Palumbo, a junior transfer from Darton College, started both games over the weekend for NIU along with Sanel Hasanovic, a junior transfer from Jefferson College.
LeSeth has liked the competition for starting spots.
“Early on I would think depth is a huge thing that we have,” LeSeth said. “From the bottom to the top we have good players in every spot there’s not just one or two guys. I have confidence that anyone can step in at anytime and play well.”
At striker, it was James Stevenson who mostly played in the lone forward role this weekend, but he did get a little help from Hogan and Kannah in the attack.
Injuries and suspensions are a common theme throughout a regular season, which makes the early Huskies’ depth that much more important. Junior defender Page is interested in seeing what will happen as time goes on.
“Definitely one of the things that we take away [from the weekend] is that we have depth as a team,” Page said. “In the first and in the second game we used a lot of our bench and there wasn’t much of a drop off in play. So that’s something to look forward to as the season goes on.”