Men’s soccer trying to find identity

By Brian Thomas

After winning the MAC championship and advancing to the second round of the NCAA tournament, NIU men’s soccer is in the midst of its spring season.

The Huskies have played three games so far, two of them coming against conference champions from last season.

NIU tied its first two games against Valparaiso, 3-3, and Marquette, 0-0, before beating UIC, 3-0.

“It’s hard for any team to be very sharp because we’re not in the mode that we are in the fall,” said NIU coach Eric Luzzi. “So the fact that three games, in against all Division 1 teams, two of the three teams we played won their conference last year, so the fact that we have one win and two ties, that it is probably fair of where we should be at this time.”

One of the goals that the Huskies have during the spring is to form a new team identity after losing seven seniors from last season and the leadership that they brought with them.

“First, we have to form a new team identity,” Luzzi said. “Anytime you graduate your seniors, we’re pretty much left with a brand new team. We try to make sure the guys, in the absence of the seniors, still move forward in terms of keeping our standards and committing to the things we need to commit to get better every day.”

Generally, the Huskies wait for their recruits to join the team in the summer, but two of their recruits have already joined them.

Gabe Christianson from Iowa and Charlie Oliver from Crystal Lake, both graduated high school a semester early and joined NIU this spring.

Even with two of the freshmen in place, it is still difficult for the Huskies to form their identity due to the success the team had in the fall.

“The hardest part this spring about forming the correct identity, is the fact that we had such a good season in the fall,” Luzzi said. “There is a very natural inclination to want to be complacent.”

NIU has three games remaining in its spring season and is continuing to improve its individual play in different areas.

“The spring is all about making our individual players better,” Luzzi said. “We spend a lot of time on the ball, on passing, receiving and ball possession. We mainly focus on making our individual players better.”