Men’s soccer plays in first match of New Mexico Lobo Invitational

By Jacob Onak

After its first win against Iona last weekend, men’s soccer (1-5-2) faced off against Denver (5-1-2) in the first match of the New Mexico Lobo Invitational.

The Huskies had a poor start to the first half as the Pioneers struck in the 14th minute. Defender Blake Shannon saw his shot get deflected into the net after a pass from Cole Chapleski found him inside the box.

Things got worse for NIU after a deflected shot found Denver’s Brian Hoyt at the back post. Hoyt received the ball and slotted it home, giving his team a 2-0 lead going into halftime.

“The environment and nerves got to us,” said senior defender Rocco Taglia.

The Huskies fought back in the second half as Gael Rivera put his team on the board in the 70th minute from a near-post shot off a pass from Matt Pritchard

Just 11 minutes later, James Stevenson stepped up as the Huskies earned a penalty kick, burying it, making the score 2-2 and forcing overtime.

Coach Eric Luzzi had to light a fire under his team at halftime.

“I challenged the team at halftime,” Luzzi said. “I told them the first half was just flat out not good enough. We dug ourselves a big hole and probably deserved to be down at halftime.”

After a strong second half, the Huskies fell 3-2 as Denver striker Josh Wren scored in the 108th minute in double overtime.

NIU looked to bounce back its second game of the weekend, when it faced fifth-ranked New Mexico (7-1-0).

Another poor start in the first half found the Huskies down 2-0 going into halftime.

The Huskies weren’t able to fight back in the second half and they conceded the third and final goal in the 67th minute.

Lobo striker Blake Smith put the game to bed as he got the ball off a deflected shot, slotting the ball far post into the net and putting his team up 3-0.

Despite the score line, Luzzi was pleased with his team’s performance.

“[It was] a tough weekend in terms of results,” Luzzi said. “I mean, I have nothing bad to say about how our guys performed. For 98 percent of the game, we were on level playing field with New Mexico, who is number five in the country. I just felt bad for the guys ’cause they worked their socks off today. They did what we asked of them. We just had a couple moments of misfortune.”