Men’s soccer poised to make jump in Swan’s third year at the helm

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Marcel Carrasco

DeKALB — With two years under his belt in charge of the men’s soccer program, Head Coach Ryan Swan is poised to lead his team to a successful season.

The program has seen improvements since the early struggles in Swan’s first year as the head coach in 2017. Swan’s overall record with the Huskies is 11-20-2, which includes last year’s 8-11-1 record that saw NIU put up the most wins in a season since 2011 when they went 15-6.

Year three under Swan will include matches against the University of Akron and West Virginia University. Both teams are NCAA top-25 teams, with Akron landing third in the nation and WVU landing at the 23 spot.

Last season ended when the Huskies were knocked out of the first round of the Mid-American Conference Tournament by Western Michigan University.

NIU took a 1-0 lead before WMU scored three and sent the Huskies home.

The Huskies provided big moments last year with home victories over University of Illinois-Chicago and Akron. 

UIC finished their 2018 campaign with a 12-6-2 record and a Horizon League conference championship. 

The Akron Zips ended their season with a 15-7-2 record and a MAC Tournament Championship. The Zips went on to appear in the NCAA Men’s Soccer Championship match, but lost to the University of Maryland 0-1.

“I think we made some big steps from the 2017 season,” Swan said. “I thought our guys stepped up in big games and showed that they could play against some of the top teams in the country.”

The Huskies will face UIC this season, but they will have to do so at UIC’s Flames Field. The match is set for 7 p.m. Oct. 1 in Chicago.

With last season’s experience behind them, Swan is expecting this season to be a different story. The Huskies will return eight first-year players from last season, including sophomore forward Nick Markanich who was the 2018 MAC Freshman of the Year.

“The guys have been in those top environments, and hopefully this year they can step in and compete more consistently,” Swan said.

Although last year saw big victories for the program, Swan said he was still not satisfied with how the season ended. He looks to improve from last season and believes his team is in a position to do so.

“Because the guys tasted some success last year, their expectations are huge this year,” Swan said. “They’re coming in and expect big things, which is great.”

Senior midfielder Irvin Dominguez will return to NIU this season as this year’s number 10. Dominguez appeared and started in 16 matches last season, netting two goals and tallying three assists.

Sophomore defender Anthony Markanich is another important player returning this season. Anthony was named to the 2018 All-MAC Second Team as he netted four goals and assisted on six.

Returning players will be key for the success of the Huskies this season. With the departure of Kevin Rodriguez, Swan said he has several players who can fill Rodriguez’s void.

Senior forward Jan Maertins is set to return to the center forward spot. Maertins netted seven goals and three assists.The German-born player also earned All-MAC second team honors last season.

NIU will return redshirt senior goalkeeper Konrad Dziedzic who played 17 matches between the posts for the Huskies last season. Dziedzic earned five cleansheets last season. The goalkeeper averaged 1.54 goals against in 2018, a 1.04 goal average lower than his 2017 campaign. 

NIU will kick off MAC play when it hosts Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville and will conclude conference play at Bowling Green State University. The Bowling Green match up will be the regular season closing game before NIU plays at the conference tournament Nov. 12.

The Huskies will open their 2019 campaign when they visit DePaul University. In the last 10 matches against the Blue Demons, the Huskies have taken six victories, lost two and split three. NIU took the last meeting with a 3-2 home win in 2017.

Kick off is set for 4 p.m. Friday at DePaul’s Wish Field.