As sophomores go, Nick Janus has exceeded most expectations laid out for him.
Janus gained over 1,550 minutes of game experience as a freshman, and after putting up five points last year and earning a spot on the All-Freshman Big Ten team, he has already equaled last year’s point total in just seven games in 2011.
Lining up at the center and outside midfielder spots, as well as forward, throughout the year, the coaching staff feels that Janus will anchor the offense no matter where he is playing.
“The work rate and the toughness and the intangibles that he brings to our midfield — whether it’s holding the ball, whether it’s tackling for a loose ball, whether it’s dominating his opponent physically — all those bits and pieces that make a good player, we just trust him, even though he’s only a sophomore,” head coach John Trask said.
Known as a workhorse by coaches for his aggressive style of play and strong work ethic, Janus has become the player coaches come to rely on in tough situations.
The respect for the sophomore doesn’t end with the coaches — teammates see him as a team leader, as shown when he converted a critical penalty kick against UC Irvine. Janus said that senior forward Josh Thiermann initially stepped up to take the shot, but handed the ball over to the sophomore in return for his relentless work throughout the game.
The fact that UW players selected Janus displays his teammates’ confidence in his ability to handle pressure and score in key situations.
Janus impressed many Badger fans in his first year with the team, but coaches feel that his maturation, as well as the valuable experience he gained this summer, will lead him to an even greater role in 2011. This summer Janus spent several weeks playing in the Netherlands with a team of current college players and older players assembled by Bret Hall, a former professional soccer player who helped coach the 2007 U.S. Women’s National Team.
Playing against four different professional teams over three weeks, Janus believes that his experience against top competition in Europe will transition to his play for the Badgers.
“I learned [in Europe] that if you make a mistake, it’s like a spotlight’s shown on it, because the professional teams are so good that if you lose your mark in the box, it’s a goal,” Janus said. “You have to be on your game the entire 90 minutes; you have to be clicked in the entire 90 minutes.”
A talented player who sees himself as his toughest critic, Janus isn’t simply satisfied with the additions he made to his game in Europe this summer. His coach points out that he has already seen tremendous improvement in the sophomore in ways that go beyond the box score, but Janus sees plenty of room for improvement.
“One thing I really wanted to work on from last year was my fitness, and that’s something I have worked on a lot over summer, and it’s improved a lot from last year,” Janus said. “[Also] individual defending, I’m really looking to improve on that, because right now I don’t think it’s at the best it should be.”
A native of Deer Park, Ill., Janus is one of several players on the UW roster from the greater Chicago area. Playing against fellow sophomore midfielder Trevor Wheeler for much of his junior career and facing off with Chris Prince and Kyle McCrudden in high school, there were already several familiar faces on the team when he joined the Badgers.
As Big Ten play approaches and the team tries to gain momentum heading into the most important part of its schedule, look for Janus to take charge in key moments and lead Wisconsin’s offense.
“We had to rely on [Janus] a lot last year to hold the ball, to get us up the field, which is one his strengths,” Trask said. “Something we’re working on now … is for him at times to play a little quicker in the right areas of the field, and save his special stuff for those moments in and around goal.”