NIU hopes to diffuse Panthers’ threats

By Hyun Moon

The NIU soccer team could be walking into a potential time-bomb at Milwaukee, Wis., which is set to explode at 2 p.m. tomorrow.

The Wisconsin-Milwaukee Panthers boast “Lagos bombs,” which packs quite a punch against opposing defenders.

Panther’s forward Manual Lagos is fourth in the nation in scoring with 40 points on 17 goals and six assists. Brother Gerard Lagos has 20 points with eight goals and four assists.

“Obviously,” NIU coach Willy Roy said, “we have to keep a very close eye on them.”

What’s not obvious is which NIU team will show up—the one that bombarded Quincy College in the second half, or the one that dozed through the first half.

“We can’t afford to give up two early goals against these guys,” Roy said.

But the return of freshman Jay Konrad will shore up the usually solid NIU defense. Konrad missed two of the last three matches because of an injury and for collecting five yellow cards.

Roy’s game plan will be to defuse the Lagos bomb by inserting his best defensive unit—Markus Roy at goal, Karsten Roy at sweeper, Frank Sparacino, Dusty Showers, Dave Weichman and Konrad as defenders.

“We won’t be able to hold the ball for very long against these guys,” Panther coach Brian Tomkins said. “They’re very aggressive and won’t allow very many touches.”

But just in case, back-up goalie Dan Green will be ready if Markus is needed on the field. “I don’t expect to play,” Green said, “but I’ll be ready.”

Green has been ready for over a year now, watching and learning from the standout goalie—Markus Roy. “Markus is smart, he knows all the situations.”

But Green brings a style of his own. “Dan is courageous and very physical,” Willy Roy said.

“I’m not afraid to mix it up,” Green acknowledged. “I’ll play the ball through a lot of traffic.”

The Panthers, too, will be ready to sacrifice their bodies tomorrow, because they have a definite motivation factor against the Huskies. Milwaukee (13-4) needs to beat NIU (9-4-3) to better its chances for a second consecutive NCAA bid.

“If we can win Saturday,” Tomkins said, “we will have a 50-50 chance of getting a bid.”

The Panthers are ranked No. 4 in the Great Lakes Region behind Wisconsin, Indiana, and Evansville. The Huskies are ranked No. 5 in the Midwest Region behind Saint Louis, Southern Methodist, Creighton and Tulsa.

“It’s highly unlikely that teams below a No. 3 ranking in the Great Lakes and Midwest Regions will get bids,” Tomkins said. “The Eastern Regions are having a down year this year, but I’d be surprised if they took a team from our regions that are ranked below third.”