Road contests against two teams that reached last year’s College Cup, including defending national champion Akron, highlight 2011 Northern Illinois men’s soccer schedule released on Wednesday.
“We are once again extremely excited to have put together a very challenging schedule for 2011,” said NIU head coach Eric Luzzi. “Our goals are to be an NCAA Tournament team every year, and to have five teams that were in the NCAA Tournament last season on our schedule will be a very good test for our team. We will find out within the first couple weeks exactly where we stand against top teams across the country.
“We want to attract top players to our program every year, and the fact is that the best players want to continually be challenged and compete against the best. To have two teams that were in the Final Four last season, the team that owns the most National Championships in the history of college soccer (St. Louis), four games against teams from the Big Ten and Big East and other traditionally strong programs such as Portland and Drake on our schedule will be great for our team to experience.”
NIU will open the regular season with a road game against 10-time national champion St. Louis on Saturday, Aug. 27. The Billikens finished the 2010 season with a 9-7-3 record.
The Huskies will then travel Friday, Sept. 2, to the University of Michigan Invitational where they will open against Oakland University, a NCAA Tournament team from a season ago. Two days later NIU will take on Michigan, national semifinalists in 2010 and the defending Big Ten Tournament champions. The Wolverines went 17-5-3 last season.
The NIU Adidas Invite will open the home portion of the 2011 schedule as the Huskies will host Valparaiso Friday, Sept. 9, and Portland Sunday, Sept. 11. The Crusaders and Pilots are both coming off of winning seasons in 2010.
Northern Illinois will play its third, and final, in-season tournament at the Northwestern Lakeside Classic. The Huskies won the Lakeside Classic a year ago with wins over Holy Cross and Gonzaga.
This season, the Huskies open the tournament Friday, Sept. 16, against Xavier. The Musketeers qualified for the NCAA Tournament a season ago and finished with a 10-7-4 record.
NIU will close the Lakeside Classic against UC Davis Sunday, Sept. 18.
Following a trip to Drake on Sept. 24, the Huskies will open Mid-American Conference play at home against Buffalo Saturday, Oct. 1.
NIU then hits the road for three-straight matches, beginning at Marquette on Oct. 4, followed by the match at defending national champion Akron on Oct. 8 and concluding at Northwestern on Oct. 12.
The Huskies conclude their home schedule with back-to-back conference matches. NIU will host Western Michigan on Wednesday, Oct. 19, before welcoming Florida Atlantic to DeKalb for Senior Day on Sunday, Oct. 23.
The regular season will conclude with a trio of road matches beginning at Bowling Green on Saturday, Oct. 29.
NIU will then travel to Milwaukee for its annual Lewang Cup match on Wednesday, Nov. 2; the Huskies have held the Lewang Cup for five-straight seasons. The regular season finale will take place Saturday, Nov. 5, at Hartwick.
“Between our conference games and the extremely demanding non-conference schedule we have put together, this is going to be a season in which our team will have to perform at our absolute best every single day to give us a chance to win,” Luzzi said. “But, after a very good spring season in which we evolved a great deal as a team and adding a very good 2011 class which includes a few players that have the potential to be special, I am extremely excited for this season. I cannot wait until August, so we can get together with the guys to start preparing for the challenges that this schedule will bring to us.”
Prior to the regular season, the Huskies will host Indianapolis and play Michigan State in Fort Wayne, Ind., in exhibition contests.
For more information on NIU men’s soccer and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.