With two goals in two games, transfer fills void of graduated star

In his second game at UK, junior forward Aaron Swanson scored two goals to lead the men’s soccer team to a 3-0 win against UNC-Asheville on Sunday. His first goal, a one-timer from sophomore Mark Halma in the 64th minute, marked the end of one long, winding path and the beginning of another.

Swanson grew up in Ft. Wayne, Ind., and attended Canterbury High School, a small private school with a powerhouse soccer program.

“Such an emphasis is placed on soccer there because they’re too small to have a football team,” Swanson said.

After high school, Swanson chose to attend the University of Dayton, where he was a member of the varsity soccer team for three years.

However, the program replaced its head coach after Swanson’s freshman year, and before long, the staff that recruited him had been revamped.

To add to the issues on the field, Swanson was not pleased with life off the field.

“Through my first three years of college, I hadn’t accomplished a lot of things I wanted to,” Swanson said. “I had to ask myself what was important to me. I felt like I was cheating myself by not fulfilling my aspirations.”

When Swanson started searching for a new college, UK was the first and only school he strongly considered. One of his roommates at Dayton, Matt Troop, transferred to UK after his freshman season. Troop, a junior goalkeeper, convinced Swanson to look at UK.

“I immediately fell in love with everything here,” Swanson said. “I knew right away that I shouldn’t be anywhere else.”

The timing of Swanson’s transfer worked out well for the Cats. UK graduated star forward Riley O’Neill, who scored 17 goals last year and helped lead the team to a 14-5-2 record.

“With the loss of Riley up top, we needed someone to step up,” senior defender Nathan Marks said.

“Aaron plays similar to Riley because they’re both more physical forwards,” Marks said. “They both know how to score.”

Head coach Ian Collins was also quickly impressed with Swanson right off the bat.

“I knew he was a very talented player that could definitely help us out,” Collins said.

As a transfer student, Swanson couldn’t begin training with the team until the beginning of this season. However, he enrolled at UK for the spring 2007 semester to start training on his own and building relationships with his new coaches and teammates.

Once Swanson started practicing with the team, Collins was immediately impressed with his work ethic.

“He works very hard,” Collins said. “He puts the defense under constant pressure with his quickness.”

Swanson was instantly drawn to his new head coach’s attitude.

“His passion and intensity for winning is like nothing I’ve ever seen before,” Swanson said. “He knows that in Division I athletics, not winning puts you under the microscope. He knows his job is to win.”

With Swanson’s two goals in two games, expectations for the rest of the season are high.

“If he stays healthy, he can score 15 goals this year,” Collins said. “It’s a tall order, but it’s obtainable.”

Swanson knows his job.

“I just want to help the team win any way that I can,” he said. “That means scoring a lot of goals.”