Men’s soccer closes out rough season vs. Buffalo

By Jacob Onak

A season of disappointment will come to an end for men’s soccer when it takes on Buffalo in its final match of the year Saturday.

Though the Bulls are in the same position as the Huskies (4-13-0, 0-5-0 MAC), as both teams are out of playoff contention, junior defender Dusty Page doesn’t see an easy game ahead.

“I don’t think any team in this conference is just gonna lay down,” Page said. “Every team is going to battle, whatever their position is in the conference right now, so we gotta come out and play our best soccer because we need a win.”

The Bulls (3-11-3, 1-4-0 MAC) are coming off of a 2-1 loss to conference foe West Virginia. This will also be Buffalo’s final match of the year, so they too will look to end the season on a high note.

The Huskies will need to be on the lookout for freshman midfielder Russell Cicerone. Cicerone is just one of three players who has started in every game for the Bulls this season and leads the team with five goals and two assists.

The two teams are very similar when it comes to goals scored and goals allowed. NIU has scored 16 goals this season, an average of .94 per game, while Buffalo has scored 12 goals this year, averaging .71 goals per game.

Defensively the two teams have struggled. NIU has given up 26 goals in 2013, allowing opponents 1.53 goals per game, while Buffalo has allowed 25 goals this season, an average of 1.47 per game.

NIU’s final home game may add more of an emotional boost, as it is also the team’s Senior Day.

The Huskies will honor their four seniors — forward James Stevenson, midfielder Gael Rivera, defender and team captain Sean Totsch and goalkeeper Miles Herbert — for their contributions to the program.

Head coach Eric Luzzi hopes to send that senior group out with a well-deserved victory.

“These guys have been through a lot in four years,” Luzzi said. “These guys won trophies with us, they were a big part of us winning trophies, they’ve been a big part of our success throughout the past four years. We’ll miss them; they’re good guys, key parts of our group. I would expect that the rest of our group is gonna wanna send them off on a high note on Saturday for sure.”

Over the past four years Stevenson has turned into a focal point in the attack for NIU. The striker from Scotland has played in 66 games for the Huskies, starting 48 and racking up 16 career goals.

Totsch, has been a leader in the back this season for the Huskies and has played in 63 matches, starting 46 in his career. The midfielder-turned-center-back has scored five goals during his time as a Huskie.

Herbert, though he has only played in two matches in his career, has been a reliable backup in the Huskies’ program.

Rivera has been the surprise this season for NIU. After a torn ACL in the spring, it was thought the Norway native would redshirt the year and come back healthy in 2014; however, after playing in two matches this season, he has chosen to move on from the program. Rivera has racked up 59 appearances for the Huskies and has started 38 times. He has eight career goals for NIU.

The match begins at 6 p.m. Saturday at the NIU Soccer and Track and Field Complex.