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NIU men's soccer holds off Oakland to advance in NCAA Tournament

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NIU men's soccer team

NIU advances in the NCAA Tourney

DEKALB (WREX) — Diego Maynez scored twice inside the opening 14 minutes and Martin Sanchez stopped a second half penalty kick as the Northern Illinois University men’s soccer team topped Oakland University, 2-1, on Thursday night in the NCAA Tournament First Round at the NIU Soccer and Track & Field Complex. 

The win was NIU’s 15th of the season, tying a school record set in both 2006 and 2011, as NIU improves to 15-2-2. The Huskies advance to face fifth-seeded Pittsburgh on Sunday, Nov. 21, in the Steel City. 

“The priority was to get through and get to Sunday’s game,” said NIU head coach Ryan Swan. “We have done that, so we have to be happy. I thought we were really good at the start of the game and then our level dropped. We weren’t quite as sharp as we should have been in the final third and it ended up being a much closer contest than we would have liked.” 

NIU scored on its first two chances of the night as the Huskies took the early lead. In the fourth minute, Anthony Markanich weaved his way through defenders and fired a low shot toward the far post and Maynez was all alone to tap it in, giving the Huskies the early lead. 

Just 10 minutes later, NIU doubled its advantage. Pepe Martinez flicked the ball to Roque Viegas Jr. who played it wide to the right to Maynez who was all alone. Maynez fired a shot over the head of Oakland goalkeeper Finn Jurak with his first touch and into the net from about six yards to give the Huskies a 2-0 lead. 

“He was really good today,” Swan said of Maynez. “Diego is a really good player and that is something that has been missing from his game recently, he just hasn’t had the stats that his work rate and his play has warranted. We have seen it in training, he makes great runs and he can finish. I was delighted that he got on the scoresheet and hopefully that will continue in the postseason.” 

Oakland responded with a chance off a corner in the 20th minute as the ball found its way to the back post where Reid Sproat’s shot from close range hit the bar and went out for a goal kick. 

In the 41st minute, Nick Markanich had a chance from close range that went just over the crossbar. 

A minute later, Markanich had another opportunity that slid just wide of the far post as the Huskies took a two-goal lead into the interval. 

Maynez nearly scored his third goal of the night just three minutes into the second half, sliding a shot just wide of the post. 

Oakland grabbed a lifeline in the 70th minute as the Huskies were called for a foul in the box and Noah Jensen stepped up to take the penalty. Jensen stuck it in the back of the net to cut the NIU advantage in half. 

Eight minutes later, NIU was called for another foul in the box and Jensen again stepped to the penalty spot. The Oakland midfielder slotted his initial chance past Sanchez, but the referee order him to retake it. On the retake, Sanchez dove the wrong way and Jensen hit the penalty down the middle, but the Huskie goalkeeper was able to make the save with his trailing leg to maintain the one-goal lead. 

The Golden Grizzlies poured men forward in the final minutes looking for an equalizing goal, but the Huskies held the visitors off as NIU advances to the next round.  

Sanchez finished the contest with two saves, Jurak made one stop in goal for Oakland. 

Up next for NIU is a trip to Pittsburgh to meet the No. 5 seed Panthers on Sunday, Nov. 21. Kickoff at Pittsburgh is scheduled for 3 p.m.

Have a news tip or story idea? Email us at sports@wrex.com

Sports Director

Derek Bayne joined 13 WREX as the sports director in December of 2011. He grew up in the Chicago suburbs and moved back to Illinois after working several years in North Carolina. For any sports story ideas or tips, you can email dbayne@wrex.com.

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