Men’s soccer grapples with Cougars


Sophomore forward Chris Paton (10) battles with a West Virginia defender to gain control of the ball Oct. 11 at the Soccer and Track & Field Complex. The Huskies play their final non-conference game 7 p.m. today in DeKalb when they host the Southern Illinois-Edwardsville Cougars, of the Missouri Valley Conference.

By Frank Gogola

Eric Luzzi, men’s soccer head coach, would prefer to see the Huskies win today against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, but a non-conference loss wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.

The Huskies (2-6-5) take on the SIUE Cougars (4-6-2) 7 p.m. today at the Soccer and Track and Field Complex. The Cougars bring their recently high-flying offense and stout defense to DeKalb for the Huskies’ final non-conference game of the season.

“Every time that our guys put the jersey on I would expect them to compete and to fight to win the game,” Luzzi said. “But, yes, the reality is our conference season is the most important thing right now.”

Luzzi said he plans to use the game to rotate in players who “haven’t had a ton of minutes up to this point.”

“That’s good because it’s not like those guys don’t deserve minutes,” Luzzi said. “Everybody on our team’s been working hard, and it’ll be a good chance for some of those guys, some of the younger guys to show us what they can do.”

The Cougars enter the contest having outscored their opponents 11-1 in their last four games. They’ve won their last four matches, two at home and two on the road, after they went winless through eight games to open the season.

The Huskies, on the other hand, have gone 0-4-4 in their last eight matches. They’ve been outscored 14-5 in that stretch and have only managed one goal in their last five games.

In the net, senior goalkeeper Kent Kobernus has allowed 14 goals in 12 games. He has given up only one goal in the Cougars’ last four games after surrendering 13 goals in the team’s first eight games.

“I think we’ve been creating chances,” said senior forward Andrew Palumbo. “We just haven’t had a good finish and haven’t been able to really get too close to goal, but I think we are setting up chances. We just need to create that one final ball and put it away, and then I think we’ll get rolling.”

Offensively, the Cougars are led by junior forward Christian Volesky. Volesky has started in all 12 games for the Cougars, netting a team-leading seven goals, more than the No. 2 and No. 3 goal scorers combined (six).

“He’s a good player,” Luzzi said. “He finds ways to score goals. He’s pretty dynamic, but he’s just a generally solid player, and he knows how to finish. So, he’s a guy that you have to keep an eye on.”

Redshirt junior defender Taylor Cole said the No. 1 priority for the defense is to not allow goals on set pieces. The Huskies gave up two corner kick goals Saturday against Western Michigan.

The other keys for the defense include staying focused and constantly communicating. To Cole, “it doesn’t really matter” that the Huskies are playing a non-conference opponent in the middle of their conference schedule.

“A game’s a game,” Cole said. “Obviously, at this point in the season conference games are very tight and can bring us into the postseason, but we’re going into the game [Wednesday] wanting to win and needing to win.”