DEKALB, Ill. – The Northern Illinois University men’s soccer team begins the 2022 campaign with a trip to California as the Huskies will visit San Francisco on Thursday, Aug. 25 at 6 pm CT and before taking on Saint Mary’s (Calif.) on Sunday, Aug. 28 at 3 pm CT. This will be NIU’s first visit to the Golden State since 2014.
“We can’t wait to get out on the field on Thursday,” said NIU head coach Ryan Swan. “Preseason is always tough, we demand a lot out of the guys, there is always some afternoon legs, and we have to make sure the guys push through to where we want them to be. We are really happy with where we are right now and can’t wait to get out there in a real game.”
Last season, the Huskies tied a school record with 15 victories, won the MAC Double (regular season and tournament titles) and advanced to the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament. NIU returns seven starters from a season ago
Enrique Banuelos (Mexico City, Mexico/Virginia) is the leading returning scorer for the Huskies, he posted 13 points a season ago with three goals and seven assists. Banuelos, who was also a CoSIDA Academic All-American in 2021, has scored in each of NIU’s two exhibition games against Marquette and Detroit.
In addition to Banuelos, a trio of other attacking players that each scored three goals a season ago return in brothers Miguel Maynez Jr. (El Paso, Texas/New Mexico) and Diego Maynez (El Paso, Texas/Lone State) along with Zachariah Thomas (Burnaby, British Columbia/Moscrop Secondary).
The Huskies also return goalkeeper Martin Sanchez (Bloomington, Minn./Kennedy), who tied for 12th in the nation a season ago with eight shutouts, along with three-quarters of their starting backline from 2021 in Harry Jolly (Liverpool, England/St Margaret Academy), Adrian Lara (Shorewood, Ill./Joliet Township) and Malcolm Ward (Youngs, Australia/Newington College).
Among the eight newcomers on NIU’s 2022 roster are a quartet of transfers, including Division II All-American Taisei Arima (Machida, Japan/Fort Hays State). Winger Patrick Coleman (Antioch, Ill./Antioch Community/Notre Dame), goalkeeper Nolan Cosgrove (Chesterfield, Mo./Parkway West/Tulsa) and outside back Cesar Cuellar (Miami, Fla./Florida International) also arrive in DeKalb with previous collegiate experience.
NIU was picked in a second-place tie with Akron in the MAC preseason poll, the Huskies and Zips each garnered 18 points while preseason favorite Bowling Green received 19. The Huskies are also receiving votes in the College Soccer News preseason national poll.
“I think the expectations are always going to be higher after you have a season like last year, but (last season) is in the rearview mirror,” said Swan. “We have a lot of new faces, but we also recognize that every time we take the field we are the MAC Champions, we are the team that went to the national tournament, so it does make it different and some opponents might look at us differently. There is the weight of expectation but I’m also confident that our guys are hungry for more success and will be able to handle that.”
San Francisco played UC Davis to a scoreless draw during the exhibition season and also dropped a 2-0 decision at Stanford in a preseason game. The Dons have been picked to finish sixth in the West Coast Conference preseason poll.
The Gaels of Saint Mary’s won both of its exhibition contests against Sonoma State and Stanislaus State. Saint Mary’s went 11-6-1 a season ago, finishing in a three-way tie for third in the WCC and are picked to finish fifth in the conference’s preseason poll.
Following this weekend’s trip west, the Huskies will visit Bradley on Thursday, Sept. 1, before returning to DeKalb to host Milwaukee in the home opener on Monday, Sept. 5.