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NIU teams prepare for season openers

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014 11:14 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014 11:22 p.m. CDT
(Danielle Guerra –
Northern Illinois University senior outside hitter Mackenzie Roddy sets a low dig during the volleyball team’s practice Wednesday on Victor E. Court in DeKalb. The team kicked off the season on Monday, after officially reporting to campus over the weekend.
(Danielle Guerra –
Northern Illinois University forward Isaac Kannah (right) pushes the ball past defender Daegan DeBono during the team's first practice on Wednesday on the field in the track and soccer complex in DeKalb.

It’s exhibition season for Northern Illinois’ men’s and women’s soccer teams.

NIU’s men’s soccer team begins its exhibition slate at 5 p.m. Sunday against Western Illinois at the NIU Soccer & Track and Field Complex in DeKalb. Head coach Eric Luzzi’s team will play Tuesday at Indiana-Purdue-Indianapolis and Aug. 22 at DePauw.

The Huskies’ women’s soccer team had its lone exhibition match Tuesday, a 1-1 tie against IPFW.

Soccer is a rare breed of sorts in that teams have exhibition matches to prepare for the season. Programs are allowed to play 20 matches each year, and can use them however they want. So a team could only have one, as is the case with NIU’s women’s program, or four.

Luzzi prefers to have more exhibition matches as it splits up the regular season.

“As we go through the season, we’ll have so many weeks where we’ll have Wednesday and Saturday, Wednesday and Saturday,” Luzzi said. “Having an extra midweek game takes away those games during the season. It’s one of the things about college soccer that I don’t like, is so many games in a short period of time.”

NIU women’s coach John Ross said it’s nice to see his players go up against different competition during exhibition matches.

“Really look for people competing for positions and playing time. As we get moving forward we have a better idea of what they’re going to do against other competition,” Ross said. “We see them on a daily basis going against each other. To see them going against new competition really helps.

“For the freshmen it’s getting that game experience, getting that Division I game out of the way.”

The Huskie men open the regular season against Hofstra on Aug. 29 at the Northwestern’s Lakeside Classic in Evanston. The women open Aug. 22 at Illinois State.

Volleyball blending in youth: Northern Illinois’ women’s volleyball team has two seniors and one junior on its entire roster.

The Huskies, who began practice Monday, will count on a youthful roster which feature five freshmen and seven sophomores in addition to a challenging nonconference schedule.

“Our goal is just to improve a little bit every day,” NIU coach Ray Gooden said. “... For sure, everybody’s going to judge wins and losses, but we know that the September group or the late August group will be better in October, November.”

The Huskies open the season with the NIU Invitational Aug. 29 through 30. NIU will play Presbyterian, Colorado and Northwestern at the tournament.

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