Men’s soccer hosts opening round NCAA tournament against Leathernecks

By Brian Thomas

Today will mark only the second time in school history that NIU men’s soccer will host an opening round NCAA tournament game at the NIU soccer complex.

The Huskies (14-5-0) are looking to defend their home field, which they were 4-1 on during regular season play, against in-state rival Western Illinois.

NIU men’s soccer coach Eric Luzzi is proud of the way NIU has worked all season and believes that it is rewarding for NIU to play the opening round game in DeKalb against the Leathernecks (13-6-1).

Western Illinois has had a strong season as it won the Summit League regular season as well as the conference tournament.

“They like to build through the mid-field,” Luzzi said. “They have some very, very good players in some spots around the field, particularly in the mid-field and on the wings. So they are kind of similar to us. They are a good team; there’s no question.”

The keys to success for the Huskies, as they have been all year, are to not change anything and continue to play their style at their pace.

“Nothing’s changed,” Luzzi said. “I think the key is that we shouldn’t be doing anything differently than we have been over the last couple of months. We have to work hard on both sides of the ball, make smart decisions, play soccer when we can, battle when we need to and hopefully continue to find a way to win.”

The defense will also have to continue to play at the level it played at all season as it and junior goalkeeper Jordan Godsey have recorded 11 shutouts.

The Huskies have been riding a lot of emotion the last couple of days after winning the MAC championship and then being selected into the NCAA tournament, but they have come back down to Earth and are focused on today’s game.

“I think we are in a good place,” Luzzi said. “Obviously, the guys were in a really good place after Sunday, so we kind of had to bring them back down and get them re-focused again. But I was pleased with practice today. We’ll do some team things tonight and tomorrow morning, and hopefully when 1 o’clock rolls around we’ll be ready to go.”