Men’s soccer hoping to add to ‘winning culture’ in 2021

Sophomore+defenseman+Dylan+Banker+plays+the+ball+in+an+Aug.+17+practice.+NIU+opens+their+season+Thursday+against+Purdue+Fort+Wayne.

James Krause | Northern Star

Sophomore defenseman Dylan Banker plays the ball in an Aug. 17 practice. NIU opens their season Thursday against Purdue Fort Wayne.

James Krause, Sports Editor

DeKALB — The men’s soccer team enters their fall season “hungry” for success, starting Thursday with a home match against Purdue University-Fort Wayne.

Head coach Ryan Swan, entering his fourth year as head of the program, said he’s seen the work ethic in his veterans improve greatly over preseason camp.

“We’re not an old team, but we have a lot of guys who have been through this,” Swan said. “I just think the mentality out here is better. Guys are hungry for success, and they recognize the work they have to do to win games. They see there’s a little more training they have to do with more intensity.” 

NIU went 5-8-1 this past spring after the fall schedule was pushed due to COVID-19. The Huskies struggled down the stretch, losing their last three matches. 

NIU brings back the Mid-American Conference First-Team brothers of senior defenseman Anthony Markanich and senior forward Nick Markanich. Nick led the team with nine goals last season, while Anthony had three goals and three assists.

Also returning for NIU is sophomore defenseman Harry Jollie, last season’s MAC Freshman of the year and a native of Liverpool, England. After years playing in developmental systems across the Atlantic, Jollie said he enjoys the college focus on results.

“Obviously, it’s different, coming from England, the style of play and players,” Jollie said. “I think there’s more of a winning culture around here where I’ve been at academies more focused on development in the past. Each week, it’s about getting results.”

NIU had two preseason exhibition matches; first, a 2-1 loss to #12 ranked Missouri State University on Aug. 16. Swan said he took away a mix of positives and negatives from their match with Missouri State.

“I think we showed we had (made progress), but there’s still a gap between us,” Swan said. “I think there were things we were looking at improving upon. I think the intensity of our pressing game needs to be better and then the clinical side of our game. We got ourselves in a good position, but we only managed to score one goal.”

The loss did light a fire under players like Jollie, who said winning is still the main goal of players in exhibition matches. Jollie would go on to score two goals in the Huskies’ other exhibition game, a 5-3 win over Purdue University Northwestern in DeKalb last Friday.

“It’s an exhibition game, but first and foremost, we want to win,” Jollie said. “We want to win every game. That’s the mentality the coaches have installed into the players. Obviously, we wanted to get minutes in the legs and improve our first touch. We want to get back sharp and match fit. I think we’ve done that.”

The regular season of men’s soccer begins with 2 p.m. kickoff Thursday at the NIU Soccer and Track & Field Complex when NIU faces the Purdue Fort Wayne Mastodons.