Friday, October 23, 2009

Dukes' trio leads Polar Bears

From L to R: Mark Mazzone, Greg Stawicki, Christian Huelsman



Three Wellington Dukes teammates thought it would be fun to continue playing soccer together after high school.

Sophomore standouts Christian Huelsman and Greg Stawicki, along with junior Mark Mazzone have known each other and played soccer together since elementary school all the way high school.

The trio made their dream a reality when they joined each other at Ohio Northern University, where they even helped lead the Polar Bears to their first-ever trip to the Elite-8 in the NCAA Division II National Tournament last season.

"It definitely makes the transition to college soccer a lot easier when you're comfortable with the players already," said Mazzone, who transferred there after playing at Guilford College in North Carolina his freshman season. "We have really good chemistry after playing so long together."

Huelsman, who is the all-time leading scorer in Dukes' history, couldn't be happier.

"I love it, it's so fantastic," Huelsman said. "We're in this together. We've always be doing this together. We're just so happy and so glad that we can share this experience. We've been through so much together. To see a lot of success out of all of our careers — is just amazing."

Huelsman leads the Polar Bears in goals (10) and points (23) for the second-straight year and is tied for second in assists (three). ONU currently stands at 10-3-2 and 4-0-1 in the Ohio Athletic Conference.

"Our main goal is to be national champs," Huelsman said. "We have other goals to be conference champs and obviously win the OAC tournament. By doing that, it'll get us in the national tournament and then we can hopefully win it this year. We just have to take the steps along the way."

Last week, Huelsman recorded his second college-career hat trick in a 7-0 win over Defiance and then notched a goal and an assist in a 2-1 win over Muskingum. That earned him OAC Soccer Player of the Week honors.

"It's such a huge accomplishment, personally and as a team," Huelsman said. "When one of us wins player of the week, it's great because we all know that the whole team had something to do with it. You can't play this sport by yourself."

Last year, he started all 27 games and led the team with 18 goals and eight assists and broke the school record for most goals by a freshman. He was also selected first-team All-Ohio Athletic Conference, along with second team All-GLIAC. He's now in ONU's all-time top 10 in goals scored (27) and his 65 points is four shy of cracking that top 10 list.

"Not a lot of teams knew who I was so I got away with a lot more," Huelsman said. "This year, they know my number so I'm getting double-teamed more. This year I have to work harder. Every game is a different puzzle."

Last year, the trio helped Ohio Northern (20-6-1) make its first-ever trip to the Elite-8 in the NCAA tournament. Three wins in the tourney earned them a spot in the final eight, but a 4-1 loss to Loras (Iowa) ended their dreams of a Final Four appearance and a chance at a national championship.

"I knew Ohio Northern was going to be a perfect fit for me when I came here," Huelsman said. "Ohio Northern's style is what I was used to. I knew it was going to be great when I came to visit here."

Stawicki has played in 15 games, including six starts this season. He has seven goals, good for third on the team. He also has two game-winning goals.

"I got a lot of experience from last year and I'm getting more playing time this season," Stawicki said. "After going so far in the tournament and having that pressure, now we have to keep it up, because every team is targeting us and wanting to beat us."

Stawicki also enjoys playing with his two good friends.

"It's awesome," Stawicki said. "We all know how each other play and what runs we makes. We know where each of us will be at. If one of us is feeling down, we pick each other up. We're like a family. (Christian) is a great player. I've learned a lot from him. He's an amazing finisher. He's made me a better player."

Stawicki is more focused than ever. He has his team's goals on his mind.

"As a team, we want to win conference, win the OAC tournament, make it to the final four and win the whole thing," Stawicki said. "Personally, I want to get better, score my goals, get more assists and just do my part to help the team."

Mazzone, a junior midfielder whose played in 12 games this season, is also focused on helping his team.

"I'd rather win than anything," Mazzone said. "Our biggest goal is to win the national tournament."

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