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Luzzi signs eight to 2013 men’s soccer class

February 7, 2013
Eric Luzzi

Eric Luzzi

Northern Illinois men’s soccer head coach Eric Luzzi announced the signing of eight players to National Letters of Intent on Wednesday.

The eight members signing class includes five freshmen, two junior college transfers and one Division I transfer.

“We are very excited to announce our 2013 recruiting class,” Luzzi said.

“There were three very specific things that I was looking for as we went through the process of putting this class together. First, I was looking for guys that had a personality that would fit perfectly into the culture that we expect here at NIU. Every member of this recruiting class is a first class young man, and every one of them is well aware of how important our concept of “team first” is here at NIU.

“Secondly, I was looking for players that are excited about NIU, really want to be here, and are appreciative of the opportunity that they will have to represent our team and our school. All of these guys are absolutely stoked about being a part of what we have here at NIU, and we are equally excited to coach them over the next few years. Finally, we wanted guys that were winners.  Every member of this class has come from high school, club, and junior college teams that have won championships, and they understand the commitment that is required to win games at the highest level.”

Five of the eight signees have experience in the US Soccer Development Academy. In addition, both junior college signees played in the 2012 NJCAA National Tournament.

“I must give special mention to our assistant coaches, Mike Boland and Garrett Biller,” Luzzi said. “As our recruiting coordinator, Garrett has done a masterful job of identifying the kind of people and players that I knew we had to bring in for the 2013 class. Garrett and Mike really do 80 percent of the work in the recruiting process, and they make it easy for me to close the deal.  Without coaches who are so competent, driven, and so highly invested in our teams’ success, we would not be able to put together a class nearly as good as this.”

Daegan DeBono, a defender from Lapper, Mich., is a member of the Crew Soccer Academy Wolves program of the US Soccer Development Academy, where he has served as team captain. DeBono also played two years at Lapeer West High School, earning second team All-Flint Metro League honors as a sophomore and First Team All-Flint Metro League as a junior, when he also led his team in goals.

“Daegan comes to us from one of the best Academy teams in the country, the Crew Academy Wolves out of Michigan,” said Luzzi. “Daegan has a tremendous upside as an athletic outside back that likes to attack, but also is very honest on the defending side. On top of that, he’s a great kid who works very hard on the field and in the classroom. He will be a great addition to our backline.”

NIU Huskies men's soccer team / 2012

NIU Huskies men’s soccer team / 2012

Andrew Glaeser, a goalkeeper hailing from Walla Walla, Wash., comes to NIU after two seasons at Oregon State. Glaeser redshirted his first season at Oregon State and appeared in one contest this past season; he will come to NIU with three remaining years of eligibility. Prior to joining the Beavers, Glaesar was an all-state performer at Walla Wall High School, he also played for the Seattle Sounders US Soccer Development Academy program.

“Andrew is the first transfer student we have had here in a few years,” Luzzi said. “He comes to us from a very good Oregon State program, and I know that he is used to being in a program that has high standards and a very demanding daily culture. As a goalkeeper, I was impressed with his shot stopping abilities, his athleticism, and his ability to organize and lead the team in front of him. I imagine he will push our current returning goalkeeper immediately to compete for our starting job.”

Sanel Hasanovic, a defender/midfielder from St. Louis, Mo., played two seasons at Jefferson College in Hillsboro, Mo. Hasanovic scored 10 goals in two seasons at Jefferson and helped lead the Vikings to the number five seed at the 2012 NJCAA National Soccer Tournament. As a senior at Bayless High School in St. Louis, Hasanovic earned all-state first team honors, scoring 17 goals with nine assists. Hasanovic comes to NIU with junior eligibility.

“Sanel comes to us from one of the best junior college programs in the nation, Jefferson College out of Missouri,” Luzzi said. “For them, he was an outside back, but we will likely look to move him higher up the field and use him as a winger. Sanel has outstanding speed, along with a willingness to attack relentlessly, and he will be a great addition to our team’s attacking group.”

Adam Lightner, a defender from O’Fallon, Mo., attended Fort Zumwalt West High School, where he was a two-time all-conference honoree. Lightner scored 16 goals and recorded 12 assists in two seasons with the Jaguars. Lightner was also a member of the Sporting Kansas City Development Academy program.

Matt Pritchard was among the 2011-12 freshman class.

Matt Pritchard was among the 2011-12 freshman class.

“Adam plays for an MLS academy team with Sporting KC, and he makes a huge personal commitment to do so, driving hours each way to practice every day,” said Luzzi. “He is another player that fits what we look for our of our outside backs — clean on the ball, willing to get forward, and willing to do the work defensively as well.  Also an awesome kid who will be the perfect fit for our program.”

Derek Ott, a midfielder from Cross Plains, Wis., attended Middleton High School, where he was a first team all-state selection as a senior. Ott helped Middleton win 57 games in three seasons and achieve a top-five ranking in the state in each of those years. Ott also played for the Madison 56ers club program.

“Derek was a little under the radar screen because he does not play for a US Soccer Academy club team,” Luzzi said. “But Derek is one of the best pure soccer players in the State of Wisconsin this year.  He is extremely clean technically, and his soccer brain processes things on the field very quickly. He also has a great engine and works extremely hard on both sides of the ball on the field.”

Andrew Palumbo is a midfielder/forward from Ft. Myers, Fla., who has spent the last two seasons playing at Darton College in Albany, Ga. Palumbo helped lead Darton to a third-place finish at the NJCAA Division I national tournament, scoring two goals with one assist to earn all-tournament honors. Palumbo was also a first team all-region selection this past season at Darton. Prior to arriving at Darton, Palumbo played at Bishop Verot High School, where he scored 115 goals in three seasons and was twice named the Florida 3A State Player of the Year. Palumbo will join the Huskies with junior eligibility.

“Andrew is probably the player of this class that will have the most immediate impact on our team on the field,” Luzzi said. “He was the best player that we saw at the Junior College National Championships, and we feel fortunate to have gained his commitment over a number of other very high profile Division I programs.  On the field, I would compare him to Wayne Rooney – quick, strong, a very good understanding of how to attack, scores goals and assists, and never stops working. He is an exciting attacking player who can play anywhere in the front four, and who will be a huge addition to our team on the attacking side.”

Parker Thornton was among the 2011-12 freshman class.

Parker Thornton was among the 2011-12 freshman class.

Mike Pavliga, a goalkeeper from Naperville, Ill., comes to NIU from Naperville Central High School. Pavliga helped the Redhawks take second in the Illinois 3A state tournament in both 2011 and 2012. He was an all-state honoree and the Naperville Sun Player of the Year as a senior at Naperville Central. Pavliga also played with the Galaxy Soccer Club, helping the club win the US Youth Soccer U17 national championship in 2012.

“Mike will make a wonderful addition to our goalkeeper corps,” Luzzi said. “He has earned some pretty big individual and team accolades over the last couple years, and we are excited that he wanted to stay close to home for his college career.  When I saw him play, there were a few things that he did that reminded me of when we recruited Jordan Godsey. Mike is an outstanding shot stopper, is extremely athletic, and is comfortable playing with his feet. Once he gets used to the pace of the game at the Division I level, he will be right in the mix to compete for our goalkeeping job.”

Cody Witkowski, a defender from Batavia, Ill., attended Batavia High School and was a member of the Chicago Fire’s Development Academy program. Witkowski was a three-time all-conference honoree at Batavia and earned all-state honors as a senior. He was a starting defender on the 2011-12 Fire Academy team that won the Great Lakes Division.

“We are very excited to add Cody to our backline,” Luzzi said. “He has experience playing both center back and outside back at the highest level of Academy soccer in this country with the Chicago Fire, and I think he will have versatility for us as both an outside back or a center back. I’m glad we got in early on Cody, as he had attracted a lot of attention from other schools after he had committed to us. I envision Cody competing for time early in his career here at NIU, and he will eventually be a big part of our back four.”

Coming off a second-straight appearance in the Mid-American Conference Tournament championship game, Luzzi looks forward to working with this class in the upcoming season.

“This class may be the most important class in my time at NIU, because I felt that we needed to perfect our team culture moving forward,” Luzzi said. “I believe that we will add a couple more players to this class before the season begins this fall, but we are extremely excited that these eight guys have committed to continue their academic and soccer careers at NIU, and we are looking forward to August when we will be able to work with them every day to help our team compete for trophies.”

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