After playing forward throughout his high school soccer career at Cary-Grove, Nick McDonald’s first season at the University of Dubuque in 2009 was spent on defense.
“I thought [Dubuque coach Brad Johnson] was crazy,” McDonald said with a laugh. “At first, I was really confused. But we had outstanding forwards at the time. After playing defense, it was one of the funnest positions I’ve ever played.”
After the past three seasons back at forward, McDonald is leaving Dubuque as the NCAA Division III school’s top goal scorer and its first All-American in the 11-year-old program’s history.
“This is what I’ve been working for my whole life, to accomplish things on the college level,” said McDonald, who was named as a third-team selection to the D3Soccer.com All-America team last month. “It means a lot to me.”
McDonald’s senior season this fall was his most impressive.
While helping the team to an 11-6-1 record, McDonald scored 21 goals, tallied seven assists and compiled 49 points. The goal and point totals both ranked seventh in the nation during the fall season.
“He earned everything he’s gotten because he works very hard for it,” Johnson said.
McDonald, who is the Spartans’ career leader in goals (49), points (110), game-winning goals (16) and three other categories, credits his groundbreaking season to a short offseason.
“The Monday after my junior season ended, I was back in the gym with my teammates,” he said. “I’m not a very big guy. During the season, I’m 145 or 150 pounds, so I have to work out hard. Work ethic, to me, is everything.”
McDonald said he spent much of the offseason working on finishing around the net and shooting.
“I’ve always been an offensive-minded player,” he said. “But I needed to work on finishing.”
His breakthrough senior season earned McDonald first-team honors on the National Soccer Coaches Association of America’s All-North Region team for the third consecutive season, a first for any Dubuque player.
“He’s a guy who always wanted more,” Johnson said. “He was always looking to work out more with our strength and conditioning coach. He leads by example.”
McDonald and fellow seniors Tyler Cuchna (C-G) and Sam McKee (Jacobs) were part of a class that went 52-20-5, winning the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in 2010, placing second twice and taking third once.
“The freshman class that Nick came in with is a fantastic group of guys,” Johnson said.
A four-time All-IIAC honoree, McDonald also did plenty to get his teammates involved in the offense.
“He’s not a guy who has to score six or seven goals a game,” Johnson said. “The progression of his career over four years is one of Nick’s biggest accomplishments.”
In 18 matches during the fall, McDonald had seven multigoal games.
“If the best chance for us to score is for me to shoot, I’ll shoot,” he said. “If the best chance for us to score is for me to pass it off, I’ll pass it off. I always try to get my teammates involved.”
Warhawk winner: Wisconsin-Whitewater wrestler Jake Fredricksen is ranked in the top 10 by two national polls in the 141-pound weight class.
Fredricksen, a senior for the D-III Warhawks, is No. 5 in the D3Wrestle.com poll and No. 7 in the National Wrestling Coaches Association rankings. The Woodstock grad is 21-4 this season with four wins by pin. He is one of three Whitewater wrestlers with at least 20 wins.
Fredricksen went 2-1 at the Cliff Keen National Duals last weekend in Springfield.
Whitewater is ranked 10th this week in the NWCA team poll.
Freshman Tom Gerszewski (Crystal Lake South) is 18-4 at 149 pounds and has five pins for the Warhawks. Fellow freshman Corey Meyer (Cary-Grove) is 12-7 with two pins at 133 pounds.
Preseason standout: Jacobs grad Ben Albano, a junior outfielder at D-II Lewis University in Romeoville., was named Tuesday to the Midwest Region Preseason All-America Team by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper.
Last season, Albano led the Great Lakes Valley Conference with 11 home runs while pacing Lewis with a .354 batting average, five triples and a .641 slugging percentage. He was a first-team all-conference honoree last season and earned second-team recognition on the American Baseball Coaches Association and Daktronics All-Midwest Region squads.
“Ben had an outstanding sophomore year,” Lewis coach Tim McDonough told LewisFlyers.com. “He is someone that people are going to take notice of, conference- and regionwide.”
The Flyers open the season March 3 with a spring trip to Florida.
• Barry Bottino writes a weekly column and a blog about local college athletes for the Northwest Herald. Write to him at BarryOnCampus@hotmail.com, check out his On Campus blog at McHenryCountySports.com and follow him @BarryOnCampus on Twitter.