Cats shut out Ramblers (Men’s Soccer)

Brian Sumers

Just a few days after a loss snapped a five-game unbeaten streak, Erik Ronning gathered his players and asked them to start anew. It looks like they listened.

Following their assistant coach’s words of wisdom, the Northwestern soccer team earned its second-straight win Wednesday, a 2-0 victory over Loyola. The Wildcats are 5-1-2 in their last eight games.

“We’d like to be the best team in Chicago,” senior captain Jeremy Cook said. “Now that we beat Loyola we just need to beat (Illinois-Chicago) to claim that title.”

The two teams were evenly matched the first half, but NU’s offense came alive following the break. In the 52nd minute, Alexander Renzi put the Wildcats on the board with his first goal of the season.

With the Cats clinging to a 1-0 lead, Adam Sirois gave NU some breathing room, scoring a goal off a breakaway in the 87th minute.

Brian Heckenbach earned his second shutout of the season, stopping seven Loyola shots. That helped him drop his goals-against average to 1.53.

Cook said he was surprised NU was able to dominate in the second half as much as they did.

“I don’t think they had their best effort,” he said. “The fact that we beat them 2-0 showed they didn’t have their ‘A’ game.”

Thursday marked the final game in the head coaching reign of Ronning, who is usually an NU assistant. Ronning led the team while head coach Tim Lenahan took a leave of absence due to his mother’s death.

In Lenahan’s absence, Ronning guided the team to a 2-1 record, giving him the highest winning percentage in school history.

“He’s done a great job for us,” Cook said. “He’s a little more laid back than coach Lenahan.”

Although the team was excellent without Lenahan, a tough challenge awaits the head coach when he returns Sunday. That’s when the Cats play Indiana, which has won all 19 meetings between the two schools.

The Cats haven’t lost this season on their home field, but they’re in for an unusually tough challenge against the Hoosiers. So far this season, NU is 2-0-4 at the Leonard B. Thomas Sports complex.

On the road last year, Indiana handed the Cats a 1-0 defeat and Cook knows it won’t be easy to defeat the Hoosiers in 2003.

“They’re not like any other Big Ten team,” he said. “They don’t have bad games.”