NIU Sports

Survive and advance: NIU soccer holds off Oakland to reach second round of NCAA Tournament

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

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

“The priority was to get through and get to Sunday’s game,” NIU coach Ryan Swan said. “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, Nick Markanich weaved his way through defenders and fired a low shot toward the far post. Maynez was all alone to tap it in, giving the Huskies the early lead.

Only 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 6 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 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 ordered him to retake it. On the retake, Sanchez dove the wrong way and Jensen hit the penalty down the middle, but the Huskies’ goalkeeper was able to make the save with his trailing leg to maintain the one-goal lead.