Novotny wins Co-Defensive Player of the Week


Lauren McQueen

Junior goalkeeper Mike Novotny blocks a shot by Fort Wayne junior midfielder Edel Ensaldo Bustos during the Panthers’ 1-0 win Sunday at the west practice field. Novotny made six saves in the match.

JJ Bullock, Men's Soccer Reporter

After turning in an impressive seven save performance to help Eastern earn their first conference win of the year on Sunday, Panther junior goalkeeper Mike Novotny was named the Summit League co-defensive player of the week.

“It’s a pretty cool feeling being named one of the defensive players of the week,” Novotny said. “I definitely couldn’t have done it without the help of a solid backline in front of me. They played very well on Sunday to keep IPFW at zero.”

The performance against Indiana University Purdue-Fort Wayne that won him the award was arguably his best of the year. Many of his seven saves came in crucial moments and often had him diving with his arms fully stretched out to block the ball. But perhaps his most clutch moments of the game came in a second half where he totaled four saves in a five-minute stretch, allowing the score of the game to stay tied before Eastern eventually fired the game-winning goal.

“Everything was just clicking the right way on Sunday,” Novotny said of the performance. “I made the saves I needed to make and then we scored a fantastic goal. It was a great day overall.”

This award isn’t unfamiliar territory for Novotny. This latest one marks the third shutout of his career, first of the season, and has come at a well-deserved time. Outside of his stellar performance on Sunday, Novotny’s 42 saves rank third most in conference and his 16 goals against are fourth best. His save percentage (.724), and points against average (1.25) both rank in the top five in conference.

“The thing I am happy about is that we are letting up less goals than last year,” Novotny said. “It’s crucial to always try to keep our opponents at zero goals so we can always have a chance of winning.”

In his seven save game, Novotny helped the Panthers pick up their fourth win of the season, propelling their record to 4-9-1 overall. To make postseason play, the Panthers need to win their last two games of the season against Western Illinois (6-7-1) and IUPUI (1-13). But if their goalkeeper continues to play at this high level and the defense stays strong in front him, reaching the conference tournament could be in the Panther’s future.

“The goal is to make it the conference tournament plain and simple,” Novotny said. “We have two conference games that could make or break our season. That’s the main focus on everyone’s mind right now. Two wins and we are in.”

Novotny’s counterpart in the award was Omaha’s Joseph Ghitis. Ghitis had a record of 2-0 this week, recording 10 saves and a .909 save percentage in the process. He leads the conference in save percentage (.769) and is second in saves with 50.

JJ Bullock can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]