Men’s soccer ends roller coaster season, looks to youth to step up


NIU’s Dusty Page (19) gets the ball away from a Drake Bulldog during a game earlier this season. NIU and Drake had a draw game after double-overtime, 1-1.

By Jacob Onak

Coming off their MAC Championship game loss against Akron Sunday, it’s tough to describe why the Huskies had such a roller coaster season.

The Huskies ended their season with a (7-10-3) record going (4-2-1) in MAC regular season play, but they started the season poorly: they were winless in their first five games.

The soccer was there. They played well, but they couldn’t find the goals that gave them an edge over their opponents. In the 20 games NIU played this season it was outscored 22-15, and no player on NIU had more than 10 points on the season. Junior midfielder Gael Rivera led the team in offensive production with four goals, one assist and nine points.

Slow starts also plagued the Huskies this season as they let in nine goals in first-half play, while only scoring three goals in the first half. The Huskies did not have a first-half goal until their ninth game of the season against MAC opponent Florida Atlantic.

Conference play seemed to be the turnaround for NIU, as its conference record secured them second place in the conference and the second seed in the MAC Tournament.

Senior captain Mike Mascitti, whose move from the midfield to the back line brought stability to the Huskies’ defense, said the turnaround came at a very specific moment in the season.

“We got off to a slow start in terms of results,” Mascitti said. “But we go back to Oct. 13, to the first time we played Akron. Our goal from that point on was to get another crack at them. We kind of had to compose ourselves in the MAC and made sure we made the conference tournament, then making sure we got to the finals so we could play Akron again. So we reached our goal: We got another crack at Akron.”

Youth brought a big factor into the Huskies’ squad this season. Judging by how most of the freshmen played this season, NIU has a lot to look forward to in the upcoming years.

Freshman defender Charlie Oliver was one of the best youngsters on the season, starting all but one game at right back, and was the only freshman to appear in all 20 games this season.

Oliver said the strength of NIU’s schedule will bring a lot of maturity to the young Huskies.

“Coming into such a good soccer environment, I’m really thankful I was put through such hard tests, Oliver said. “We played so many top-five, top-10 teams this year, I really feel like it’s going to help everyone with experience as well as confidence moving on forward.”

Senior goalkeeper Jordan Godsey put an exclamation point on a stellar NIU career as he broke the NIU career shutout record against Rhode Island for his 27th career shutout on Sept. 7. Godsey finished his career with 35 shutouts, nine on the season.

“It wasn’t our best year, but I just felt like our team just came back from a lot of downs to a lot of ups,” Godsey said. “Getting to play in the MAC finals against the No. 1 team in the country for your final game–you really couldn’t ask for much more.”

2013 should provide a defensive test for NIU. With the conclusion of this season, the Huskies lose starting defenders Mascitti, Rocco Taglia, and Pat Sloan, along with goalkeeper Godsey. Sloan started every game this season while Taglia started all but two due to suspensions.

All in all, Mascitti said he is proud to be part of such a good group of guys and proud to be a Huskie.

“Unfortunately, it didn’t go in our favor,” Mascitti said. “We didn’t win the MAC Championship or get a birth to the NCAA Tournament, but we came together in a way that many people didn’t think we could after our start to the season. [I give] credit to the group of guys we have, credit to the coaches that didn’t give up on us. I am proud to be a part of this group.”