Men’s soccer ends season without conference tornament

Redshirt+senior+Kyle+Knotek+was+able+to+retain+the+Lewang+Cup+in+his+final+season+as+a+Huskies.+The+NIU+men%27s+soccer+team+ended+their+season+and+didn%27t+have+a+good+enough+record+to+participate+in+the+conference+tournament.

Redshirt senior Kyle Knotek was able to retain the Lewang Cup in his final season as a Huskies. The NIU men's soccer team ended their season and didn't have a good enough record to participate in the conference tournament.

Mike Buda

DeKALB | This season brought disappointment for the NIU men’s soccer team, but the Huskies finished strong with momentum heading into the spring.

NIU posted a 9-6-2 record while going 2-4-0 in the Mid-American Conference and missed the conference tournament for the first time since 1998 and for only the second time since joining the MAC.

Although the team didn’t achieve its ultimate goal, NIU head coach Eric Luzzi still sees the season as a positive.

“There’s a lot of teams that would be very pleased to end a season 9-6-2 at the Division I level, but we had very high goals for ourselves,” Luzzi said. “We had a lot of very great experiences this year and a lot of very great wins, but we’re still left a little disappointed that we didn’t achieve all of our goals, which was to get to the NCAA tournament.”

NIU had its close calls throughout its 2010 campaign, as it finished just one win out of the final MAC semifinal spot and all six of its losses came by one goal.

“The margins are very tight and it requires an unbelievable attention to detail, and so we just have to make sure in the future our attention to those details are that much sharper,” Luzzi said.

This season the Huskies outscored their opponents 22-12 and held the opposition to just under 10 shots per game. NIU’s defense can be credited for the team’s success as seen in its final statistics, which ranks the Huskies 16th in goals against at 0.71 and 15th in the country in shutout percentage at 0.50.

Sophomore Jordan Godsey improved on his freshman year as he had a 0.69 goals against average, which ranks 19th in the nation. Godsey is currently on pace to break the school’s career goals against average, which is currently owned by Joe Zimka who posted a 0.91 from 2005-2008.

The Huskies will be losing four seniors next year in midfielders Kyle Knotek, Luis Mojica and Engebreth Faerden and striker and the team’s leading scorer Juan Hoyos. Even with the loss of over 40 percent of the team’s scoring, NIU is set for the future.

“The individual talent and the work of each player was really impressive,” Knotek said. “The talent that each player had and the work ethic was unprecedented since I’ve been here at least. There’s definitely some great things in the near future for this team because of the young guys working hard and the talent of the older guys that have been here.”

Fresh faces in Mino Kayser, Sean Totsch and James Stevenson made an immediate impact and with older players like Finn Jor, Tim King, Francis Otira and Brad Horton, the Huskies could be all smiles in 2011.

“We have by far the most talent that we’ve ever had here,” Luzzi said. “All 26 players that we have are capable of playing at such a high level, so I think we have some work to do in terms of making sure our guys are as sharp as possible at all times. We have to make sure that our abilities and our talents work for us in the future. I honestly believe that we are not that far from being a top 10 or 15 team in the country, and now it’s up to all of us to make sure that actually happens.”

Even with the promising future that NIU has in its youth, this past season came to one thing that was the ultimate game changer.

“After the loss to Buffalo and after we pretty much knew we were out of the conference tournament, there was just no more pressure anymore,” Luzzi said. “The guys played the last three games in a good state of mind and there was just no pressure. When there’s no pressure, we have the potential to do good things, but I think next year we’re going to have to work collectively on how to deal with pressure a little better.”