Soccer falls to Mountaineers

By Roland Hacker

The men’s soccer team dropped a 4-3 overtime heartbreaker Saturday to the West Virginia University Mountaineers.

The Huskies trailed 2-0 early in the second half but forced overtime with late game heroics from junior forward Jan Maertins on the cold, rainy night.

“I thought [Maertins] was exceptional,” Head Coach Ryan Swan said. “He had two goals, hit the post and had one cleared off the [goal] line. He looked very good and excited. He was a big part of the reason we were so good in the final third. His runs and hold-up play was good. He doesn’t deserve to be on the losing team tonight.”

West Virginia opened the scoring in minute-28 with a goal from junior midfielder Andres Muriel Albino. West Virginia padded their lead in minute-47, shortly after the start of the second half.

“We were dominant in the first half, but we couldn’t create any clear chances,” Maertins said. “At halftime, we all got together as a team, and we were determined to change in the second half. We came out with more fire and ambition. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to take advantage of them enough to win the game. It’s unfortunate because I think we were the better team. I think we have a lot of potential here, which is wasted when we lose these games.”

After the second Mountaineers’ goal, NIU’s offense finally got to work; first-year defender Anthony Markanich got the Huskies on the board with a header that found the back of the net in minute-55.

Maertins followed suit less than a minute later to tie the game at two goals apiece. He headed in a feed from first-year forward Nick Markanich.

“On [my] first goal we had a good build-up,” Maertins said. “The cross came in, and I got a touch on the ball, but it got cleared. The defense was still a little out of shape, and the ball got to the other side. I made the run I had to make, and Nick [Markanich] picked me out really well. The only thing I had to do was head it in.”

The scoring frenzy continued 31 seconds later, and the Mountaineers stole back the lead with a goal from sophomore defender Kevin Morris.

Maertins tied the game for the second time in minute-74 with his sixth goal of the season and second of the game.

“[My] second goal, the defense of West Virginia switched off,” Maertins said. “[Senior midfielder Kevin Rodriguez] curled in the low corner, and I tried to flick it on, and it landed in the goal. That was a little lucky, but I did my job, and it paid off.”

Maertins’ second goal forced the game into overtime. West Virginia won the game with a goal in the seventh minute of sudden death overtime.

“Before the game, I thought this would be an exciting college soccer game between two teams with dynamic, attacking players on the field,” Swan said. “I think it was probably fun for a spectator, but I think I’ve added 50 percent gray hair to my head. I think it’s a game we’ll look back on, and there’s a lot we’ll be happy with, but conceding four goals at home is unacceptable.”

The Huskies were given four yellow cards in the scrappy, 31-foul game; the Mountaineers received one. NIU outshot WVU 19-11, including 8-6 on goal.

“I think we were more proactive [in the second half],” Swan said. “We had some really good attacking positions. I didn’t think it was as good in the first half. We had good runs and were getting into dangerous areas.”

The Huskies begin the Mid-American Conference Tournament 1:30 p.m. Tuesday in Kalamazoo, Michigan, as they take on the Western Michigan University Broncos.

“We always talk about cleaning up our mistakes, and this is the time to do it,” Maertins said. “We have a couple days to recover and analyze what we did wrong. I think we can go far.”