Men’s soccer attack looks to shine in Ohio

By Jacob Onak

After two preseason exhibitions the men’s soccer team is set to get the season started, as it heads to Columbus, Ohio, this weekend.

In the season opener Friday, and the start of the Wolstein classic, the Huskies will take on the Cincinnati Bearcats, who lost both of their preseason matches.

Last season the Bearcats went 6-9-4 overall and were a team struggling to find goals, having just a .64 goals per game average.

Head coach Eric Luzzi said the Huskies need to start working on the little things in order to be prepared for the weekend.

“We’ve had two shutouts and two games where we’ve created loads of really good chances. At this point it’s just starting the sharpening process,” Luzzi said. “…The back four hasn’t given up any goals yet but there’s still things we need to do to get them a little bit shaper, a little more on the same page.

“Our attacking unit scored two really good goals this weekend and creates loads of chances, but there’s still some sharpness things to get guys on the same page, it’s really just kind of sharpening and making sure physically and mentally we are excited for Friday and sun cause it should be a very good weekend.”

On Sunday, the Huskies will face off against tough competition in Ohio State. A team looking for redemption, the Buckeyes went 6-10-3 overall last season and were winless in Big Ten conference play.

With two of the Buckeyes’ top scorers having graduated, they will rely on Kenny Cunningham to step up and take a larger role in the offense.

NIU junior centerback Dusty Page said now is the time for the Huskies to start focusing and leave the preseason behind.

“In terms of training, just professional attitude I think is a big thing that carrying into the regular season, it’s going to be important,” Page said.

“Taking everything one training session at a time is also very extremely important because if you let yourself thing too far in advance you are going to struggle and hurt the team in the long run.”

With leading goal scorer Gael Rivera recovering from a torn ACL, senior James Stevenson and junior Isaac Kannah will have to step up for the Huskies. Stevenson and Kannah combined for five goals and three assists last season, but the offense will need to increase their goal-scoring numbers if they want to be successful this season.

As the start of the regular season comes closer, senior goalkeeper Miles Herbert said there is a sense of excitement around the Huskie camp.

“I think that during preseason because our schedule is so jam packed that we don’t really have time to think about what’s happening weeks in advanced,” Herbert said. “But you know we’ve had a couple days off and those games are getting closer and closer. I think people are … anxious to get going, but I think most of us are in a really good place, but it’s not exactly nervousness, just excitement.”

The Huskies are a team in transition defensively as they look to finalize a back four as well as a starting goalkeeper. Playing against programs like Cincinnati and Ohio State should help separate the starters from the reserves this season.