Four all-state performers and five U.S. Soccer Development Academy players highlight the signing class.
“I am absolutely thrilled to announce our 2012 recruiting class,” Luzzi said.
“We have had two outstanding classes over the last two years—classes that were the foundation of a championship season in 2011. But, I strongly believe that this class is the best that we have assembled in our time at NIU. As a class, these 8 players possess the personality, drive, and talent that will continue to move our program forward and help us achieve our goals of being one of the top teams in the entire country.”
Gabe Christianson, a central midfielder from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was the 2011 Gatorade Iowa Boy Soccer Player of the Year at Kennedy High School.
Christianson is a member of the Eastern Iowa United club program and is the No. 48-ranked recruit nationally, No. 1 in the Heartland Region, by TopDrawerSoccer.com, and the No. 42 recruit nationally by College Soccer News.
“Gabe is built for college soccer,” Luzzi said. “He is comfortable on the ball, he has a good soccer brain, and he has an outstanding engine and tireless work ethic. He will be a valuable part of our attack, but we also know that he will always work extremely hard to give us a physical presence in the middle of the field. He graduated high school early and started with us this semester. He has fit in well with our team already, and has a very bright future ahead.”
Kyle Crichton, from Ajax, Ontario, is the captain of the two-time Canadian Soccer Association national championship Ajax FC Strikers club team.
A central midfielder, Crichton also played four seasons at Pickering High School, helping the Trojans to the 2008 and 2011 Lake Ontario Secondary School Athletic League finals.
“I think Kyle has the potential to be a special player for us,” Luzzi said. “He is one of the most composed players we have ever recruited at NIU. He is extremely technical, has a very advanced soccer brain, and will be a very important piece to our attack for the next four years. I am excited to start working with Kyle this fall to help our team continue our evolution as a dynamic attacking team.”
Bertrand Gaschot is a midfielder/defender from Westwood High School in Austin, Texas, helping lead Westwood to a regional runner-up finish in 2010.
“Bertrand is one of three guys coming to us from the Lonestar club in Austin, Texas,” Luzzi said. “They are coached by Bruce Talbot, who is one of the best youth coaches in the country in terms of preparing his players for the demands of Division I soccer. We have seen Bertrand play a lot and the more we watched him, we noticed that he is extremely technical, has outstanding habits on the field, never gives the ball away, and will run through a wall for his team. He can also play anywhere across the midfield, or as an outside back, and his versatility will be a huge benefit to our team.”
McDonald, from Austin, Texas, served as the captain of the Lonestar U16 Development Academy team during the 2010-11 season. With his prep team, McNeil High School, McDonald earned All-Tournament Team honors in the 2011 Texas 5A State Tournament and was also named to the Region 2-5A All-Region team.
“Kyle is a center back in the mold of John Terry from Chelsea or Nemanja Vidic from Manchester United,” said Luzzi. “He is a winner, a warrior and a leader. Kyle is as tough as nails, and never accepts anything but the best from himself or his teammates. Every team, no matter how much talent you have, needs a couple players like Kyle. I can’t wait to start working with him this fall.”
A local product from Crystal Lake, midfielder/defender Charlie Oliver was a four-year letterwinner and two-year captain at Crystal Lake South. Oliver is a two-time IHSA All-State honoree and was the Daily Herald Player of the Year in 2010. Parker is a member of the Chicago Fire Academy team in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy.
“As a player, Charlie is very similar to Brad Horton, who just finished his career at NIU,” Luzzi said. “Charlie is very quick and very pacy, and he has an engine that allows him to run all day. He has mainly been an attacking player throughout high school, but we will look at him mainly as an outside back. He is honest defensively, but will get forward a lot from the outside back position, which adds another dangerous element to our attack. Charlie also started early with us and has already fit in very well with our team.”
Matt Pritchard comes to NIU from Creighton Prep in Omaha, Neb., where he helped lead his team to a perfect 20-0 record and a state championship in 2011. Pritchard scored a team-high 24 goals and was named First Team All-Nebraska by the Omaha World-Herald. Pritchard is a member of the Omaha FC Elite club, where he was a member of five state cup winning teams.
“Matt is a player that really impressed us at our Elite Camp last summer,” said Luzzi. “He plays for one of the best high school teams in the country at Creighton Prep in Omaha, Neb. He reminds me a little bit of Wayne Rooney—always working relentlessly on and off the ball, good running at players, and an outstanding finisher in and around the box. He will add a cut-throat nature to our attack, which is something every great team has.”
Miles Stockman-Willis is an outside back from Woodbury, Minn., and Hill-Murray High School. Stockman-Willis is a two-time Minnesota High School Soccer Coaches Association Class AA All-State honoree and is the seventh-ranked player in the Midwest Region by TopDrawerSoccer.com. Stockman-Willis is a member of the Minnesota Thunder Academy, the same club as current Huskie Isaac Kannah.
“Miles comes to us from the Minnesota Thunder Academy team where he has had great coaching over the last few years from Jon Lowry, who was a former Division I coach with three separate teams that went to the College Cup. Miles fits what we now look for in an outside back — willingness to get forward and be a key part of our attack, with the honesty and physical capacity to get back and defend. He’s a great kid who will do whatever is asked of him to improve and help the team, and I’m looking forward to working with him this fall.”
Thornton, a Buda, Texas native, is the third member of the Lonestar Soccer Club to sign with NIU. A wide midfielder or forward, Thornton scored 25 goals as a junior at Hays High School and was named district Offensive Player of the Year. Thornton led the Rebels to a 24-1-1- record and a conference championship in 2011.
“Parker is a very dangerous attacking player,” Luzzi said. “Athletically, he is an absolute handful, and I see him terrorizing opposing defenders for four years. His quickness and pace is electric and he will give us an element of being able to get in behind the other team, which will ultimately give us more space to play in front of them. I think Parker’s personality will give him the chance to be extremely successful at NIU and I am personally looking forward to getting Parker on campus this fall and coaching him.”
Coming off a 2011 season that saw the Huskies win a school record-tying 15 wins, a Mid-American Conference Tournament championship and an appearance in the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament, Luzzi believes this class will help NIU continue to climb into the upper echelon of programs in the country.
“I feel confident that this is a Top-15 recruiting class in the nation, and a lot of the credit for assembling this class needs to go to our associate head coach Scott Donnelly and assistant coach Garrett Biller. Their eye for identifying exactly the kind of person and player that I want to have in our team, and their ability to develop relationships with recruits is absolutely first class,” Luzzi said.
“I am excited to add these players to our Huskie soccer family this fall, and I am excited to help them develop as people and as players over the next four years. When it’s all said and done, I fully expect this group of players to help lead our team to being one of the best programs in Division I soccer.”
For more information on NIU men’s soccer and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.