Luzzi knows bar has been raised

By Jimmy Johnson

Excited would be an understatement on Eric Luzzi, NIU men’s soccer head coach, feels about the 2010-2011 season.

Luzzi, who signed a contract extension which will keep him as the Huskies head coach until 2014, declared three specific reasons why he is boasting with confidence: his returning group of players, the incoming recruiting class and the schedule.

The Huskies’ spring squad went 6-0-1 during offseason play while also capturing the Governor’s Cup.

Luzzi applauded the way his returning players have conducted themselves and matured over the past few years.

“The way our guys have evolved and have brought a professional business like mentality to what we do every single day allows me to sleep comfortably at night,” Luzzi said.

Top returning players include goalkeeper Jordan Godsey and Kyle Knotek, who will look to rebound after suffering a season-ending knee injury on the first day of fall training last year.

In terms of the new recruits, Luzzi initially had six players for his 2010 class which he touted as “one of the best classes in at least the five years that I’ve been here.”

Yet that didn’t stop him from striking more recruiting gold.

Along with assistant coach Scott Donnelly, Luzzi took at 10 day trip to Europe to try and land three more recruits.

“[We thought] if we can get one of them, it would be good. If we can get two of them, that would be great,” Luzzi said. “And if by some stroke of luck, if we can get all three of them, it’s special.”

Luck was on Luzzi’s side as he landed all three of his targets in mid-fielders Mino Kayser, Gael Rivera and forward James Stevenson.

Last season, NIU played well against top competition but couldn’t muster enough success to take home the win including a 1-1 tie against North Carolina and being shutout in two games against conference rival Akron.

This season, the Huskies will get their chance at redemption to show they belong in the top-tier discussion.

NIU will open its season on the road against the University of Portland, who made the final 16 in the NCAA tournament last year while also taking on Washington, Wisconsin and Northwestern.

The home match up against the Zips, which Luzzi called “the granddaddy of them all,” highlights NIU’s conference schedule.

Luzzi described Akron’s home field advantage with stands filled with fans as something he hopes the Huskie faithful can bring.

“It’s our hope that we can replicate that when they come to DeKalb,” Luzzi said.