Four-year-starter Novotny ready to lead

JJ Bullock, Assistant Sports Editor

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The Eastern men’s soccer team is a squad that prides itself, and focuses on maintaining a strong defensive identity. They have acquired a reputation as being one of the stouter defensive units in the Summit League.

However, if there is one rule of thumb that holds true in soccer, it is that your defense is only as effective as the goalkeeper protecting the net, and Eastern has found solace in this rule the last three seasons knowing that one of the Summit League’s top goalkeepers Mike Novotny is anchoring the defense in the goal.

The last two seasons, Novotny has taken all-conference second team honors home and this year Novotny is returning to the field for his senior season, ready help get Eastern back to the conference tournament and keep improving himself on the field.

“As an individual goal, I always want to improve my game in some way. I want to work on all my weaknesses to make myself a more well-rounded player,” Novotny said. “For the team, our two main goals are to make it to the Summit League tournament like last year and to grow as a team to keep building our foundation of a strong culture and players that are relentless on the field.”

As far as what Novotny views his role with the team as, the senior sees himself as a leader on a team with young players.

“This year I really need to have a consistent voice on the field so the young guys know what they are doing and are aware of everything around them at all times,” Novotny said.

Novotny has no shortage of individual accolades and records, last season he notched his career best in saves per game with 1.39. He took home back to back Summit League defensive player of the week awards and he worked his way to a .720 save percentage on the season. Despite however what his personal stat sheet looks like, Novotny does not put much though into where he stands amongst the best goalkeepers in the conference.

“I do not focus on that much,” Novotny said. “All I focus on is improving my game and making sure that I am doing my job for the team so we can be successful.”

Entering this season, Novotny was the lone Panther to make it on the Summit Leagues players to watch list for the 2017 season.

If Novotny can achieve his goal this season of improving his game, expect him to not only raise his mark of six career shutouts, but look for him to be the focal point of Eastern’s gritty defensive personality.

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