Loyola, St. Louis next on NIU soccer agenda

By Carl Ackerman

NIU has the opportunity to become officially known as a Top 20 national contender this weekend, but the battle will not be an easy one.

Head soccer coach Willy Roy and his Huskies play host to Loyola University Friday at 4 p.m. on Huskie Soccer Field. Following Friday’s game, NIU travels St. Louis University, a team ranked fifth nationally.

“In order to do well, we will need a total team effort,” said Roy.

Loyola enters today’s game at 4-3, after defeating Western Illinois 2-1. Goalie Jim Ambrose leads the Midwest with a goals against average of 0.34 in six games, which compares with NIU’s Markus Roy’s 0.81 GAA. LU’s top scorer is Dave Smith with three goals and five assists.

Coach Roy watched LU in action two weeks ago when they edged Bradley 2-1.

“They have a dangerous forward who is extremely quick. Otherwise, they are a balanced team from back to front,” said Roy, now in his third year as Huskie coach. “From what I saw, they had good work habits. This stuck out more in my mind than anything else.”

LU’s top players will not be NIU’s only obstacle of the game. The Huskies will play shorthanded four players.

Frank Sparacino, John Kelly and Padraic O’Donnell will be out because of a test, and Tom Weber is doubtful with a twisted ankle.

“I will start out with the best possible line-up available,” said coach Roy. “I hate to miss them, but obviously they are here to go to school. We will have to do the best we can.

“I think Loyala will probably lay back, and wait for breaks. I don’t think they will come mix it up with us. It’s our home game, and we’re gonna go after them.”

NIU’s task will not get any easier against St. Louis (9-1-1) which is ranked No. 1 in the Midwest. Coming into Friday’s game against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, Dave Toural leads his team as well as the Midwest with 19 points (nine goals and one assist). He led his team with 16 goals last year. John Johnson (three goals and four assists) is another offensive threat to NIU.

“We’ll have to give special coverage to Toural, and then take our chances with the rest of the team. Dusty (Showers) will have to mark him tight. It will take more than a physical effort, also a mental effort,” said coach Roy.

St. Louis goalie Kevin Johnston is second in the Midwest with a 0.75 GAA which includes four shutouts.

“We will mix it up with St. Louis,” said coach Roy. “We have to make sure we have good passes and control the ball. We have to do fine, and I expect us to do fine. We have nothing to lose. We’re playing the No. 5 team on their home field.”

St. Louis is a very quick team at both ends that waits for its moments to attack. They have good passing and a strong defense. Last year they finished fourth in the nation. This year St. Louis is expected to have its best team in a while.

St. Louis lost its only game, 3-0, to third-ranked Evansville (8-1-0). St. Louis tied Indiana 1-1, which is the only team to beat NIU this season (1-0 in overtime).

“We must control the ball against St. Louis more than we did against Indiana,” said coach Roy, whose team fell to St. Louis 2-1 two years ago.