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Well-traveled freshman Maertins finding the net early

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Maertins scored his first goal as a Golden Eagle against Northern Illinois.

Maertins scored his first goal as a Golden Eagle against Northern Illinois.

Photo by Austin Anderson

Photo by Austin Anderson

Maertins scored his first goal as a Golden Eagle against Northern Illinois.

When a European power like FC Basel calls, you make arrangements.

Jan Maertins was 14 years old when Basel, winners of the Swiss Super League the last three years, brought him into their academy. The move meant Maertins had to travel an extra hour on public transportation from the border city of Rheinfelden, Germany, his hometown, to show off his talents.

The decision paid off for Maertins, as he won a Swiss title and two Swiss Cups with Basel. He played against programs like Barcelona and many of the best the Bundesliga has to offer.

“It was a great experience,” Maertins said. “That helped me develop a lot, mental, physical and technical. … We were a good team.”

However, everything wasn’t perfect. He started to check out his other soccer options while with Basel’s U-18 team, realizing there wasn’t space with older players getting most of the playing time. He opted to travel again, but this time, he’d be a bit more than an hour away.

Maertins was intrigued by the idea of college soccer, since there aren’t many situations where you can play at a high level while getting an education in Europe. It helped that he’d been taking mandatory English lessons in high school, which made the transition less daunting.

He talked to six or seven college coaches, but Marquette stood out. Bennett, who met Maertins at a showcase, told him he had no interest in recruiting another striker if Maertins came to Milwaukee.

Maertins found a spot where he’d be with a coach he trusted and on a team where he’d likely get early playing time. So far, it’s looking like Bennett reeled in a much-needed offensive addition.

Like most of his counterparts, Maertins had a quiet game in the team’s 4-0 season opening loss against Kentucky, missing the net on his only shot on goal. He’s settled down since, shaking off the freshman nerves. He scored his first goal at Marquette against Northern Illinois, then found the net again on a shot from the middle of the box against Illinois-Chicago.

“Jan has played some clutch goals,” Bennett said. “Running in the near post, he’s a handful. He has a tendency to be a little emotional at times, but he’s capping that.”

As for playing time, that doesn’t seem to be an issue either. He’s started all four games and based on his play, that’s not likely to change any time soon.

“I’m pretty strict with myself,” Maertins said. “I want to play and I’m working hard for that.”

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