Upset spoiled after 2 goals in last minute

Courtney McCarty

When a shot headed toward the Northwestern goal with 44 seconds left Sunday, the men’s soccer bench held its breath. The Wildcats’ coach summed up what the players were feeling.

“It’s like deja vu all over again,” coach Tim Lenahan said to himself on the sidelines.

The Cats (7-3-2, 0-1-1 Big Ten) were leading 3-0, but they weren’t about to feel comfortable with their lead against Western Illinois.

The Cats were remembering Friday, when their team dominated the entire game but allowed Penn State to score two goals in the final 44 seconds to force a 2-2 tie.

NU came out strong against Penn State (5-2-5, 0-2-1) at the Lakeside Field and outplayed the No. 9 Nittany Lions for the first 89 minutes. But twice in the final seconds, Penn State created a scramble in front of the net and snatched goals in the chaos.

NU kept the Nittany Lions scoreless in overtime and held on for the tie.

“We played out of our minds Friday, ” Lenahan said. “We played as well as we could play. Sometimes the soccer gods aren’t in your favor.

“If you told me before the game we’d be 2-2 against the ninth-ranked team in the country, I would take that. But, of course we’re all very disappointed with the way it all ended.”

Junior midfielder Kevin Earnest scored both of the Cats’ goals against Penn State to total three goals on the season.

Earnest shot an unassisted goal into an open net in the 38th minute, then finished a pass from junior Brad North just more than a minute into the second half.

Although he was happy to contribute to the team’s conference-leading goal total, Earnest said he was disappointed with the game’s result.

“The way we look at it, it was a 2-2 loss,” Earnest said. “It’s the one thing that happens in your soccer career that’s heartbreaking.

On Sunday, NU shut out Western Illinois at Lakeside Field to pick up its first win in four games. In the opening half, the Cats showed some wear and tear from Friday’s 110-minute overtime match.

The Leatherheads were beating NU to balls and showing more speed and energy.

But in the second half, the Cats picked it up. Sophomore John Carlstedt knocked in his first goal of the season with a header into the top right corner around the 65th minute.

The Cats got a few more good chances before forward Gerardo Alvarez, the conference’s leading scorer, netted a goal with about five minutes remaining.

The goal was Alvarez’s 10th of the season, surpassing his total from last year. Alvarez led the team in scoring last year as a freshman.

“I thought about it after the game a little bit,” Alvarez said. “I thought the gods were against me, something like that. But I made the goal now, and hopefully I can get a few more here and there.”

North hit a shot off of a Western Illinois player and into the net with just more than two minutes remaining, but the Cats knew from Friday not take that cushion for granted.

“When it was 3-0 and everyone looked up and there were 44 seconds (left), I think everyone’s heart skipped a beat,” Earnest said.

Reach Courtney McCarty at [email protected]