Indiana University Northwest is adding three varsity sports programs.
Athletic director Ryan Shelton announced Tuesday that the university is adding men’s and women’s tennis and, most notably, men’s soccer. The teams are slated to begin play in the fall of 2019.
“We felt that men's soccer, and the popularity among Northwest Indiana and Northwest Indiana high schools, is a sport we can successfully recruit and compete right away in," Shelton said. "And that was important to us, as well as when you consider the timing of the season."
Shelton said that a fall sport like men's soccer is less likely to have games canceled than a spring sport because the weather is more cooperative in the fall.
IU Northwest already has seven varsity sports programs — men's and women's basketball, men's and women's cross country, men's and women's golf and women's volleyball — competing at the NAIA level.
The addition of men's soccer and men's and women's tennis are also part of a larger decision by the school to leave the Association of Independent Institutions Conference and join the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference.
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If the Redhawks’ application to the conference is approved, they’ll begin competing in the CCAC next fall. Calumet College of St. Joseph is already a member of the CCAC.
Shelton said IU Northwest has not hired any permanent coaches yet, but plans on choosing a men's soccer coach over the next four to six weeks and men's and women's tennis coaches shortly after. Until then, Eric Roldan, the associate men’s basketball coach and recruiting coordinator, will serve as the interim men’s soccer coach and recruiting coordinator.
Roldan grew up in the area, played four years of soccer at Bishop Noll and said he’s thrilled to revisit a sport he loves.
“Being able to get back into the high school game, the high school practices in the Region, and get around to talk to the guys, and showing them the opportunity to play at the next level, while also getting a good education here at IU Northwest, is something that is exciting to me,” Roldan said.
Roldan said current IU Northwest students who are interested in joining the team and will return next year have already started playing indoor soccer together in the university’s intramural league. He said it’s a great opportunity for them to get some conditioning in, and also build relationships with each other before official team activities begin next year.
“The goal number (for our roster) is 25,” Roldan said. “If we have to go a little over, that’s fine too.”
The soccer team will play and practice at the Crown Point Sportsplex. The off-campus home of the tennis teams hasn't been decided.