No. 3 Story of the year: Men’s soccer wins MAC Championship


By Brian Thomas

NIU men’s soccer accomplished something that it had only done twice in school history: winning the MAC Championship.

The Huskies (15-6-0) went through the MAC tournament and earned a pair of 1-0 victories – over Buffalo in the first round and Western Michigan in the conference title game – to be crowned MAC Champions.

“It means everything to our program,” said NIU goalkeeper Jordan Godsey. “To have a top 10 school like Akron in our conference means that we can compete against anyone in the country.”

By winning the MAC Championship, the Huskies also earned themselves an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

NIU made winning the MAC Championship a goal three seasons ago, and had been chasing it since then, so for it to reach its goal was exhilarating.

“It was pretty awesome,” said NIU coach Eric Luzzi. “It was obviously the goal that we had been working toward for three years, and anytime, as a coaching staff and as a team, you work hard at something and you give so much of yourself and you reach that goal, it’s pretty satisfying.”

This was a Huskies team that looked different from seasons previous as it changed its style from a defensive team to an attacking team that looked to go on the offensive end more often.

NIU was led in goals by sophomore James Stevenson, who scored six, while sophomore Gael Rivera and senior Pat Sloan each added four on the year.

Although they wanted to change their identity and become an offensive team, the Huskies were still a strong defensive team. Godsey set a new record in shutouts with 12, as well as a record in wins with 15.

There were also five Huskies that received All-MAC honors; Godsey, Stevenson, Francis Otira, Karim Darbaki and Isaac Kannah.

Now that the Huskies have reached this level of success, they only expect to get better.

“It helps elevate our standard,” Luzzi said. “We’ve been saying since we took over that our goal is to be one of the top 15 or 20 teams in the whole country, and this puts us almost on that pedestal. We’re not quite there yet, but it got us a lot closer to being one of those teams that, year in and year out, is going to compete with the top teams in the country.”