Maertins has special senior night, helps NIU to conference with over WMU

Junior midfielder Louis Sala controls the ball Friday against Western Michigan University during an eventual 3-2 win during Homecoming week at the Soccer and Track and Field Complex.

DeKALB — With the lights shining at their brightest Friday, the men’s soccer team was able to win its final home game of the regular season against Western Michigan University, 3-2.

The game held a lot of weight as it was not only the last home game but was also the Homecoming soccer game and senior night.

Senior forward Jan Maertins did not disappoint in his final home game as a Huskie. Maertins scored the first and last goal of the contest, helping NIU earn its second conference win of the season.

“All the credit goes to the team,” Maertins said. “I can’t do it without the other guys. I am just happy in my last [home] outing in my college career.”

Western Michigan led the conference in wins before the game and had beat NIU seven of the last eight games. The win snaps a three-game losing streak against the Broncos.

Head Coach Ryan Swan said he was content with his team’s and Maertins’ performance.

“We have massive respect for [WMU], and I think, arguably, [it has] been the most consistent team in our conference the [past] few years,” Swan said.

Maertins’ first goal came at the 22nd minute after receiving a pass from sophomore defender Anthony Markanich in the box. Maertins controlled the ball before turning back and taking on three Broncos defenders to score the goal.

Markanich either assisted or scored on all three of the Huskie goals. For the Huskies’ second goal, Markanich scored from the left side at a tight angle facing the net. Markanich’s shot was blocked by redshirt goalkeeper Issac Walker but still had enough power to go past Walker for NIU’s 2-0 lead.

The Broncos cut the lead in half in the 38th minute when first-year midfielder Antonio Rizzo scored on a volley after a header hit off the crossbar from first-year midfielder Dylan Sing. The score stayed at 2-1 until the half.

The Broncos were not done yet, as they opened the scoring in the second half to tie the game. The play started with a free kick. First-year midfielder Charlie Sharp saved the play after Sing had kicked it first. Once Sharp had possession of the ball, he did not forgive and punished NIU, making the score 2-2.

Right before the 76th minute, Maertins became the hero of the night when he scored his last home goal of the season to put the Huskies up 3-2. 

Markanich started chasing down a loose ball, then passed it to his brother, sophomore forward Nick Markanich, who crossed the ball into the 18-yard-box. Maertins was poaching the six-yard-box area and connected on Nick’s cross.

With this win, NIU secured a home record of 4-2-1, its second consecutive year of winning the majority of its home games.

“It makes things much easier winning at home and when you have supporters at home to play in front of,” Swan said.

The Huskies will move up to second place in the Mid-American Conference, tied with Southern Illinois University Edwardsville with a 2-1 conference record. The Huskies’ overall record improves to 7-7-1.

Huskies will be back on the pitch 6 p.m. Saturday at FirstEnergy Stadium against the University of Akron in Akron, Ohio.

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