Men's Soccer: Northwestern earns its signature win
October 10, 2012
If Northwestern needed any inspiration for its highly anticipated return to Lakeside Field, all the Wildcats had to do was listen to the wind.
NU (8-2-2) played as strongly as the stormy gusts that shook the stands Tuesday night, defeating No. 7 Notre Dame (10-3) 2-1 for its first victory over a top-10 team since the 2008 NCAA Tournament.
The extreme wind and late-night rain added to the Cats' home-field edge.
"Basically, every time we play Notre Dame they always let us play, so that was to our advantage," junior midfielder Lepe Seetane said. "Nobody likes coming out here. We were able to use this field and the weather."
Freshman forward Joey Calistri opened scoring with his team-leading fifth goal of the season. Later in the first half, Seetane notched his first goal of the year to give NU a two-goal advantage that lasted until the final five minutes of the match.
Calistri scored in the 15th minute with a one-touch shot from the left side of the box that escaped Notre Dame goalkeeper Patrick Wall. Seetane's goal came five minutes later and was equally picturesque, as he gracefully chipped the ball into the top corner of the net with his left foot.
Calistri and Seetane's goals demonstrated the Cats' dominant first-half offense. NU controlled the tempo and commanded midfield possession with quick, precise passing while keeping a characteristically tight defensive line.
Sophomore goalkeeper Tyler Miller was also instrumental in NU's non-conference victory.
Miller faced an onslaught of shots – the trigger-happy Fighting Irish had 21 shots for the game compared to NU's 9 — and made 6 saves in the game. The sophomore attributed a big part of his success to the Cats' defense and midfield.
"When our midfield is able to hold the ball higher up the field, it allowed our defense to really organize themselves and me to organize the defenders as well," Miller said. "Playing against the wind for 90 minutes is very tiring, but we were able to dig in and really hold them off."
Coach Tim Lenahan commended Miller for his game management and mentioned how helpful NU's six-day rest was during the intense match-up. Lenahan said he traveled to South Bend to watch Notre Dame's 3-1 win against No. 3 Georgetown on Saturday.
"Notre Dame was phenomenal on Saturday, and it's tough to go on the road for a midweek game and have your 'A' effort again," Lenahan said. "That was part of (our) success, especially in the first half."
Notre Dame was visibly frustrated going into the second half. As the wind picked up, the Irish fought back and attempted 15 shots, some of which seemed careless. Notre Dame's Bob Novak received a yellow card for a foul.
The Cats strengthened their back line to counter the Irish, at times overloading their defensive zone to make some key blocks, which Miller said was the plan coming out of halftime.
"They say in soccer the two-nothing lead is the most dangerous lead to have, so going into the half we knew we had to step up our game," he said. "We knew they were going to throw the kitchen sink at us."
Although the Cats face conference rival Ohio State at home on Sunday, Lenahan said Tuesday night's non-conference matchup proves a lot about his team's strength, both on and off the field.
"It took a long time, and we were nervous on the sidelines, but our guys dug in and we got a signature win for this team."