Transfers make an early impact

An opportunity. That’s what a trio of athletes were searching for when they started exploring their transfer options this summer after experiencing successful seasons in the Big Ten and NCAA Tournament.

It coincided with the arrival of new DePaul head coach Mark Plotkin, who was looking for opportunities to find immediate impact players that would bring leadership as well.

He accomplished that goal bringing in former Indiana goalkeeper Drew Nuelle and midfielder Isaac Friendt, who were fresh off a runner-up finish in the NCAA Tournament as well as former Wisconsin defender Brayden Callipari, who helped the Badgers finish the season with a record of 12-5-5. Already midway through the season, Plotkin has been pleased with what the trio has added to the culture, as well as their play on the field.

“They’ve really helped us out just culture wise, competitive wise and confidence wise,” Plotkin said. “Having them out there and understanding the teams that they’ve played against and the situations they’ve been in, they really instill the confidence in our guys that we can compete and play with anybody. That we can beat anybody.”

Plotkin added that Callipari and Nuelle have especially helped out on the defensive side of things and have given the team more confidence. The Blue Demons entered the summer having to replace former goalie Quentin Low, who had started all 18 matches the previous season. Nuelle said he knew the opportunity was there to play early, and so far it has helped him improve as a goalkeeper.

“Seeing the field after I haven’t played in two years, so seeing the field again has definitely helped,” Nuelle said.

The sophomore goalie has had a solid season, saving over 75 percent of the shots taken against him and allowing less than one goal per game. Plotkin said all the team ever asks of Nuelle is to give them a chance to win. He has already come up with some big saves already this season. The first-year head coach also praised his defense for not allowing a lot of shots on goal and doing what they can to prevent direct attempts on Nuelle.

“It gives you a ton of confidence,” Plotkin said. “Just understanding that you have a guy behind you that if you make a mistake he’s got your back; Drew’s a great leader on this team, has a great attitude, a great work ethic and really challenges the the guys in front of him. I think our defense does a great job of not giving up great opportunities for teams and making sure we get in front, we block a lot of shots for him and we help him out as much as we can, we play angles for him.”

Nuelle’s transition to DePaul was made easier when, his roommate of the past two years, also decided to transfer to the Blue Demons. While the five-foot-eight inch midfielder has missed some time due to injury, he has still tried to make an impact in his first season in Lincoln Park, and so far has enjoyed the experience.

“Everyone has a voice on this team,” Friendt said. “So I’ve just tried to be as helpful as possible, being a leader, being helpful to guys out on the field. Injured by trying to help still.”

Coming from the Hoosiers, the sophomore from Andover, Minnesota has tried to bring a couple of lessons he learned over the course of his two seasons at Indiana.

“Definitely a sense of discipline,” Friendt said. “There are a whole bunch of little things that go into this game and what’s going to make-or-break a win, a game, a season is that if you can lock in on doing the small things correct and you’ll sway a game or season entirely.”

Flanked by his roommate, Friendt has enjoyed his time in the city and bonding with a new set of teammates and coaches.

Further strengthening the back line was the addition of Callipari, who grew up in Batavia, Illinois and played for the Chicago Fire Academy for seven years. After appearing in nine games for the Badgers last season, Callipari decided it was time to come home.

“It’s been awesome – I love the city,” Callipari said. “That was one of the main reasons I came back here. I always made my way downtown growing up, I just love being here and everyone has made the transition pretty easy for me to get settled in to Lincoln Park. So it’s been a good experience to come back home.”

After winning a Big 10 championship, Callipari said he learned from the team’s winning mindset and is looking to bring that to DePaul where his confidence has risen with more playing time.

“I think it’s really about building up your confidence,” Callipari said. “You come from a place where you are really not getting as much playing time as you would have liked, and then you come in here with a whole new coaching staff who believe in you and you want to put out your best for them; so it’s helps you grow as a player, build your confidence and you just put out your best performance.”

Callipari has been a steadying force along the backline, appearing in all eight games so far this season.

The Blue Demons are off to a good start sitting at 4-4, including 1-1 in the Big East. With all three now seeing extensive action and with three years of eligibility left, their time in Lincoln Park is only just beginning. They now hope to help DePaul return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2008, when their coach was a player with the Blue Demons.