NU heads over to Loyola (Men’s Soccer)

Kelvin Ma

A 5-0 loss hurts. A lot.

“Remember the feeling,” Northwestern men’s soccer captain Steve Jedlinski said after Sunday’s home loss to Michigan.

Coming off their biggest loss of the season, the Wildcats (7-9, 0-4 Big Ten) head to Chicago this evening to play Loyola (3-13) in their final non-conference match, and they’ll no doubt have Sunday’s drubbing on their minds.

“We’ve done pretty well out of conference,” NU coach Tim Lenahan said. “You have winning streaks. You don’t have non-winning streaks.”

All seven of the Cats’ wins this season have been against non-conference foes, and NU has not dropped more than two games in a row. The Cats will look to add another win to their non-conference record as they face a Ramblers squad that is best described with one word — unlucky.

In the midst of a 13-game losing streak — which began Friday, Sept. 13 — Loyola’s offense has dominated the competition. The Ramblers have outshot opponents 213 to 183, but they have only 18 goals to show for it.

“Loyola’s a deceptive team,” Lenahan said. “They’ve outplayed every team, but they’ve been a little unlucky and that makes me nervous.”

Loyola has been prone to defensive lapses, and opponents have capitalized. Despite the strength of the Ramblers’ offense, their defense, led by goalkeeper Greg Stellatos, has allowed 37 goals. Stellatos, responsible for 12 of Loyola’s 13 losses, has a 2.23 goals-against average.

The Ramblers’ toughest loss of the season came against Valparaiso — on, of course, Oct. 13. Up two goals against a Valparaiso team down a man due to an ejection, Loyola blew its lead and went on to lose 3-2 in overtime.

As for NU’s defense, it will have to keep an eye on Ramblers forward Joe Nierzwicki, who has five goals and four assists, and leads the team with 42 shots. Also pacing the Loyola offense are Blake Kluesner, who has scored four goals, and C.J. Bachmann, who has compiled three goals and two assists.

The defense needs to recover from the ego bruising it suffered in Sunday’s match. But beyond the 5-0 final score, the Cats’ defense proved to be solid, limiting the Wolverines to 12 shots.

“We didn’t play as badly as a 5-0 score would suggest,” Lenahan said. “We have to have a little more of a bite to keep them from scoring. We didn’t bring a certain amount of emotion that you need to be a good defensive team.”

The Cats’ offense was more alive than usual on Sunday, if somewhat unlucky. NU fired 11 shots of its own to keep pace with the Wolverines. Freshman Eric Brin had two clean breakaways, but was stopped in the box by Michigan goalkeeping. Despite the shutout, the Cats kept the Michigan defense on its heels, forcing nine corner kicks.

In seven matches all-time between NU and Loyola, six have ended in ties. Loyola holds the only win of the series. In last season’s meeting, the Ramblers battled the Cats to a 2-2 tie at Lakeside Field.

A strong performance against Loyola would be a confidence booster for the Cats, as they wrap up regular-season play next week against Wisconsin and Ohio State. But Lenahan said his team will not to take today’s match for granted.

“Being the coach of a team that didn’t win for 16 games last year, we always thought the next game would be the game,” Lenahan said.