Men's Soccer: Notre Dame may be Northwestern's toughest challenge yet
October 8, 2012
If the pattern holds, Northwestern is due for a win tonight.
The No. 22 Wildcats (7-2-2, 2-0-0 Big Ten) have alternated wins and losses in their last four games. The Cats beat their two Great Lake State opponents, Michigan and Michigan State, but had worse luck against in-state competitors DePaul and Bradley.
As NU looks to rebound from the embarrassing Bradley loss, No. 10 Notre Dame (10-2-0, 2-2-0) provides some added pressure. The Fighting Irish are the Cats' highest ranked opponent so far this season
Senior midfielder Kyle Schickel, who leads NU in shots for the season, thinks Notre Dame's rank will only fuel the team's drive come Tuesday.
"I think everyone knows Notre Dame is one of the toughest teams on our schedule," he said. "We don't really need any motivation to play against a team like that."
NU has found recent success facing Notre Dame, boasting a 2-0-2 regular season record against the Irish since 2008. During that span, the teams have met twice in the NCAA tournament – in 2008 and 2009 – and NU won both post-season match-ups.
But this is not the Notre Dame of years past.
The Irish took down their third top 10 team Saturday with a 3-0 win against No. 3 Georgetown. They also beat then-No. 4 Akron and then-No. 10 Indiana earlier this season. Their only losses thus far were to Big East rivals No. 2 Connecticut and Louisville.
Notre Dame leads the Big East in overall shots, points and goals. The Irish scored 10 goals in their previous two games, while allowing only one.
The impressive saves statistic is due in part to junior goalkeeper Patrick Wall, who boasts a 6-0 record so far this year. Wall made four saves against Georgetown for his third shutout of the season.
The Notre Dame matchup marks NU's return to Evanston after a two-game stretch on the road. The Cats will play under the lights at Lakeside Field for the first time since losing to DePaul on Sept. 26.
Although NU has the home-field advantage, the Cats will play without sophomore midfielder Nikko Boxall, who was red carded during the Bradley match. Despite scoring only one goal this season, the midfielder has played in 11 games this season and is usually on the field for the full 90 minutes.
Before the DePaul loss, the Cats were on a 13-game unbeaten streak at home. Both Irish losses have come on the road.
NU will also be coming off of a six-day rest, which coach Tim Lenahan said could be either helpful or hurtful to his players.
"We played Michigan State last week – they had a 10-day rest and we beat them, so sometimes the rest is good, sometimes it's not good," Lenahan said. "I'll let you know Tuesday night."