Key weekend ahead for Huskies soccer squad

By Steve Dennis

It’s too soon for classroom exams, but the NIU soccer team will be spending the weekend on the road in two early season tests.

The Huskies face the University of Wisconsin and Eastern Illinois University, two teams with which NIU has experienced little success in the past.

“We have a tough weekend ahead of us,” head coach Willy Roy said. “I’m not one for history, but the NIU record versus both of these teams (2-11-1 vs. Wisconsin and 4-10-1 vs. EIU) has been atrocious. We sure don’t have a foundation to build a house on.”

A good place to start building would be with a victory in Friday’s contest with Wisconsin. The Badgers are currently tied for 20th in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America poll. The game features two of the Midwest’s top soccer teams. The only difference is that Wisconsin is nationally recognized, while the Huskies are seeking some recognition.

“They (Wisconsin) are very deserving of their ranking,” Roy said. “But early on, as far as rankings, I believe our team is every bit as good as theirs.

“They are well-coached and very disciplined,” Roy said. “They have three forwards that work extremely hard that do a lot of floor checking, and two outstanding fullbacks.”

oy believes his team is up for the challenge.

“We’re going to have to shut off their fullbacks from getting easy passes to the front line,” Roy said. “They don’t wait to challenge, but we’re not going to go over there and sit down, either. The only sitting we’ll do is on the bus.”

Game two is a grudge match. Last season, when NIU squared off with the Panthers, the game only lasted 18 minutes.

Eastern fans halted play when they started throwing cans in the direction of the Huskies. Roy pulled his players from the game with EIU leading 1-0.

“All I know is that I’m going to bring my construction helmet,” Roy joked. “Seriously, it’s too bad that it happened, but I’m sure it’s not going to happen again.”

If the fans don’t stop the game again, Sunday’s showdown with EIU, the defending Mid-Continent Conference champions, marks the debut for the Huskies in the Mid-Continent.

“We certainly can’t ask for bigger challenges than playing a top-20 team, followed by our first Mid-Continent match being against the defending champion,” Roy said. “I might be happy if we can escape without two losses. I think it’s great to play teams of this quality because that’s the level we want to play at.”