Experience factor has Roy talking ‘cautious’

By Hyun Moon

The pioneers of NIU soccer have reached the final leg of their journey.

Four-year veterans Karsten Roy, Marcus Roy, John Lechner, Mark Siegwald, John Kelly, Frank Sparacino and Per Ekholdt are in their final year of eligibility.

“These seniors are the ones who turned this program around,” head coach Willy Roy said. “And I’m cautiously optimistic that we will have a good team like we’ve had in the last two years.”

For the past two years, Willy Roy Jr. has been to the soccer team what Michael Jordan is to the Bulls, leading the Huskies to a 14-4-2 record in 1989 and 13-5-2 mark in 1990. Now he’s kicking footballs for Charlie Sadler.

“When the chips were down he was the one who scored the big goals for us,” Coach Roy said. “We need someone to step forward and do that for us this year.”

Roy has already found a couple of areas to shadow the loss of Roy Jr., who led the nation in assists (18) and was seventh in scoring (48).

“We’re going to be tough on set plays this year,” Roy said, “because we have people who are capable of heading the ball in the goal. And our corner kicks will be much improved because we have the guys to challenge for head balls.”

Providing the headers will be a duo of 6-2, 180 pound freshman, Jay Konrad and Derek Niepomnik. “They also give us toughness on defense,” Roy said.

The defense will need to be tougher, because one of the main reasons NIU was snubbed by the NCAA selection committee for post-season play turned out to be a 4-1 loss to Illinois State last October—a defensive disaster. The two teams meet Sept. 18 in DeKalb this season.

“Illinois State will be a must game for us this year,” Roy said. “We’re not going to forget what happened to us last year, and we’re going to go after them. We owe them something.”

Roy cited Karsten’s absence as the key reason for the loss. Karsten, a sweeper, was ineligible for the game due to five yellow cards he had accumulated in previous games.

“We lost crucial players for crucial games last year,” Roy said. “We want to avoid that this year.”

Along with Illinois State, the Huskies will host their biggest regional rivals at Huskie Soccer Field.

Saint Louis (Sept. 26) and Quincy (Sept. 28) will make trips to DeKalb this year. Another top Midwest Region team, Southern Methodist, will hook up with NIU at a neutral site in Charleston. “Those are the games we have to win,” Roy said. “And if we do that, there’s no way we can be overlooked.”

The Huskies start their season Sept. 7-8 competing for the Mayor’s Cup in Oneonta, N.Y., the site of the National Soccer Hall of Fame, which Willy Roy was inducted to in 1989.