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Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

Huskies best Spartans behind scoring surge

Knight earns hat trick in second college start
Nyla Owens
Midfielder Eddie Knight (19) dribbles past Aurora’s defenders going in for his second goal in the first half on Monday. Knight scored three goals against Aurora leading the Huskies to Victory 7-2. (Nyla Owens | Northern Star)

DeKALB – Off the foot of NIU junior forward Taisei Arima, off the crossbar, back to Arima and into the net. Huskies, 1-0.

A low, left shot slides past the goalie. Huskies, 2-0.

Another shot sails into the net. Huskies, 3-0.

That was just the beginning of the offensive firestorm that led NIU men’s soccer (2-2) to its 7-2 beatdown of the Aurora University Spartans (1-1) on Monday at the NIU Soccer and Track & Field Complex.

Senior midfielder Eddie Knight had a career day on the green with a hat trick in his second collegiate start. Knight – making his 39th in-game appearance – sent three balls into the net to match his number of goals from the past three seasons.

“It’s really exciting,” Knight said. “I’ve been working really hard. My first four years here have been rough with injuries and everything. It’s always good to score three goals and everybody else is celebrating with you.”

Knight stressed the team aspect of NIU’s success during the match.

“It’s not just a you thing,” Knight said. “I can’t do it without the team. Intercepting a ball because everybody’s pressing. Last goal, (freshman forward) Sam (Divis) plays me in perfectly for the finish, and he celebrates with me all the same.”


After mustering one goal in each of its first three matches, NIU’s offense erupted with seven goals – its most goals in a match since Feb. 26, 2021.

The Huskies peppered Aurora senior goalkeepers Jalen Depenbrock and Antonio Herrera with 20 total shots – 10 of those on goal.

While Arima and Knight handled business in the first half, senior midfielder Camilo Estrada accounted for two second-half goals.

NIU men’s soccer head coach Ryan Swan emphasized Estrada’s impact on his team’s momentum.

“Cami (Camilo) Estrada was exceptional today,” Swan said. “I thought when we took him off, it really showed we were missing a little bit of composure and leadership in there. So when he went back in again, I really think we settled back into the game.”


Freshman goalkeeper Atahan Arslan manned the net for NIU on Monday in his first college start. Arslan played all 90 minutes – the only Huskie to do so this game –  and faced nine shots in his debut. He recorded three saves while permitting two goals.

“I thought Atahan did well,” Swan said. “He came and grabbed a few crosses. I thought his distribution was good.”

Swan explained his decision to start Arslan over NIU’s usual starter, senior goalkeeper Jakub Rujek.

“Kuba (Rujek) did fantastic for us on Friday night, and we just kind of wanted to give Atahan a chance to get out in the college environment as well.”


NIU drew first blood in the eighth minute behind the foot of Arima. The Machida, Japan, native scored his first goal of the season with a successful second-chance shot against Depenbrock.

Knight began his offensive burst in the 21st minute with a low left goal. His first deposit came by way of intercepting an opposing pass.

“It was a little bit lucky, but we create our own luck,” Knight said.

Arima and Knight joined forces in the 25th minute for NIU’s third goal of the night. Arima provided the assist for Knight’s second scoring shot.

Aurora found the scoreboard in the 36th minute thanks to a collaborative effort by two Spartan forwards. Aurora freshman Ben Gamino scored his first career goal supported by an assist from senior Anthony Marmolejo.


After halftime, the Spartans made a switch at goalie, replacing Depenbrock with Herrera. Despite the change, NIU’s offensive rhythm persisted.

Spartans junior forward Branden Dolezal found the net in the 52nd minute to trim the NIU lead to 3-2. Arslan briefly handled a shot before Dolezal charged in to kick his first goal of 2023.

Estrada cashed in with his first goal in the 71st minute, assisted by senior defenseman Parker Jeppson.

The Huskies took just 13 seconds to add yet another score. Divis set up Knight for the last goal needed for a hat trick.

Though NIU had the game well in hand, Knight said the team’s energy remained in full swing after his third and final goal.

“It’s crazy because we’re up 6-2 already at that point,” Knight said. “But everybody is still celebrating like we just won the MVC or just won the championship.”

NIU ended any hopes of an Aurora comeback with a pair of late goals to put away its in-state foe. Estrada scored his second goal in the 83rd minute to climb level with his career-high two goals in a season.

Sophomore forward Taylor Davis brought the night to a close with his first career goal in the 89th minute, assisted by freshman forward Miguel Garcia Jr.


NIU will spend its next two games on the road, staying within the confines of the Midwest. The Huskies start their road spell against Northwestern University at 7 p.m. Friday in Evanston.

The match will be streamed on Big Ten Network Plus. Live statistics will be presented by StatBroadcast.

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