Add another chapter to the hard-luck story of the 2002 Northwestern men’s soccer season.
Playing perhaps their best soccer of the season, the No. 7-seed Wildcats (8-11, 0-6 Big Ten) fell 1-0 to No. 2 Michigan (9-6-2, 3-3) in the first round of the Big Ten championships Thursday.
The Cats held the usually powerful Wolverines’ offense to 12 shots and had 10 of their own.
With Michigan’s star midfielder Knox Cameron away with the Under-20 U.S. Men’s National Team, NU was looking to upset the offensively weakened Wolverines. In the two teams’ last meeting, Michigan won 5-0, with Cameron scoring twice.
Despite the absence of one of their top players, the Wolverines broke a defensive stalemate in the 26th minute. On a free kick from Adam Bruh, Mike White connected with a header past Cats’ goalkeeper J.D. Martin for the eventual game-winner.
At the end of the first frame, the Wolverines had outshot the Cats 6-3. Freshman goalkeeper Peter Dzubay had one save for Michigan, compared to Martin’s three.
The second half brought new life to the Cats, as they outshot the Wolverines 7-6. NU managed the game well, maintaining possession for the remainder of the match.
But as the case has been all season, NU was unable to put one in the net, mustering only three total shots on goal.
This season, the Cats have scored one goal against all of their Big Ten opponents.
NU’s best chance to score Thursday came in the final five minutes of the game. Senior Doug Gibson, streaking unmarked down the field, received a service but blasted his shot wide right of an open goal.
Dzubay held onto the shutout for his third of the season, tallying three saves on the day. Martin, who was selected for second team All-Big Ten honors after the match, notched six of his own.
With the win, Michigan advances to the semifinals, where it will face Michigan State today. The sixth-seeded Spartans topped third-seeded Ohio State 3-2 in Thursday’s first match.
In other first-round action, fourth-seeded Penn State knocked off fifth-seeded Wisconsin, 1-0. The Nittany Lions will face defending Big Ten champion Indiana today. The Hoosiers received a first-round bye.
The Cats’ elimination from the tournament also wraps up the careers of six seniors. Gibson, Martin, David Dehorn, Paul Elkins, Steve Jedlinski and Justin Lesch all bid farewell to the NU soccer program Thursday.
All of NU’s seniors started the match, a move designed to take advantage of their postseason experience, NU coach Tim Lenahan said earlier this week.
But for co-captain Elkins, the Cats’ eight wins this season — third-best all-time for NU — are a worthy end to his career, regardless of the outcome of Thursday’s match.
“We’ve had a lot of ups and downs,” Elkins said. “But to finish our career on a high note, with the way this season has gone, is great. To do this well this season is the best accomplishment of my life.”