Huerta stepping up for men’s soccer


Bryan Bund

Sophomore Jonathan Huerta sends a free kick toward the goal in the Panthers’ 1-0 against Saint Francis Sept. 10 at Lakeside Field.

Vince Lovergine, Men's Soccer Reporter

Entering his sophomore season at Eastern, midfielder Johnny Huerta and his team have done well so far this year, except at providing some offense.

Coming into the match-up against Wright State Tuesday at Lakeside Field, Eastern has only scored four goals this year. In any game they’ve scored, the highest goal total is just one.

Dating back to last year, Eastern has not scored more than one goal in 11 straight games, going all the way back to the win against Western Illinois 2-0.

While the scoring output is so minimal, it has resulted in 4 ties, compared to last season, when the Panthers only tied once.

Huerta said the team’s mindset needs to change for the rest of the season.

“Mostly our mentality going forward needs to change attacking wise,” he said. “Defensively we’re playing really well, and our possession has gotten a lot better as we go throughout the season. Other than that, I think the mentality needs to stay the same as we started the season, so we need to keep going forward.”

Mike Novotny has been a huge presence for Eastern this year, ranking first in saves in the NCAA with 54 coming into Tuesday’s game, while he ranks second in saves per game with 6.75.

“He’s a big part of our team for sure,” Huerta said. “He’s kept us in a lot of games, where he had 15 or 16 saves against Western Michigan, the man has really kept us in games and he’s doing his job really well. He’s got a really good back line in front of him, which is also good because our backup keeper is learning from Mike and as he comes on next year, he can produce the same. It’s just really helpful.”

In Tuesday’s game, the Panthers lost their third straight contest and remain without a goal during the losing streak.

AJ Patterson scored his fifth goal for Wright state in the game, while Jacob McGrinder added the other goal for the Raiders.

With the loss, Eastern’s undefeated streak at home is over, after they won and tied twice on Lakeside field.

After the 12th meeting between these two teams, Eastern drops to 5-7 in the all-time series, and the last time the Panthers defeated the Raiders was back in 2008.

Huerta said he did see some positives in Tuesday’s game.

“Improvement in possession and being dangerous in the attacking half were positives,” he said. “It’s a positive thing for us as we had more shots today than any other game. Going forward we just have to execute and finish off with goals.”

Dating back to last year, Huerta hasn’t scored since the Summit League Tournament when the Panthers faced Omaha, where he scored on a free kick, but eventually lost 3-1 in that contest.

To date, Huerta is tied for first in assists on his team with one. He also leads Eastern in shots with 11. It’s a matter time that Huerta will put the ball in the back of the net.

As the offense continues to struggle, Eastern ranks 204th in shots per game with 6.25 in the NCAA, and they also rank 204th in shots on goal per game with 2.13.

With some seniors graduating from the Eastern squad, Huerta knows he has to step up with the potential of becoming a leader.

“Becoming more of a vocal leader and also a leader on the field with my play,” he said. “Last year I was more laid back and listening to everyone else, and I was always listening to the other leaders, but now that were a young team, we need people to step up, and we have a couple guys that can step up and be leaders for this team, and everyone on this team is a leader, and everyone has to do their part.”

Eastern will conclude their mini two-game homestand this Saturday against Omaha.

Vince Lovergine can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]