North By Northwestern (Men’s Soccer)

Chris Gentilviso

By Chris GentilvisoThe Daily Northwestern

As Northwestern heads into its final regular season game against Northern Illinois on Friday, senior forward Brad North stepped onto the practice field Tuesday afternoon with no hesitation.

Despite four losses in their last six contests, the Wildcats will look for senior leadership from North as they head into the Big Ten tournament, struggling to stay alive for an NCAA tournament bid.

“My expectation coming into the season was for our team to win,” North said. “There is no team in the Big Ten that we feel we can’t match up with. I see us in the finals.”

In his four seasons under coach Tim Lenahan, North has become an offensive stalwart. He has scored 33 goals in 72 career games for NU and was named to the All-Big Ten First-Team last season.

He cited Lenahan as the drive behind his growth into one of NU’s all-time best offensive players.

“He’s made me the player who I am,” he said. “When I came in, I was a high school stud. It’s a completely different game once you realize you’re on a team filled with high school studs. He taught me to see that there’s a team element to embrace and a role to play.”

North will best be remembered for his performances in the clutch. Of those 33 goals, nine have been game-winners, highlighted by a dynamic goal against defending national champion Indiana last season.

“There’s really nothing to lose in situations like that,” he said. “You have to go out there and give it your best. Since it’s such a high level spot, I just feel calmer, knowing that expectations of something happening aren’t always there.”

But when asked what his most memorable moment was from his four seasons in Evanston, that game took a backseat to the performance of his team as a whole.

“It was Indiana until this year’s Ohio State game,” he said. “Last year, I didn’t even score a Big Ten goal. The energy that it gave the team was an amazing feeling.”

His late game heroics in that early September match have grown contagious for NU. Sixteen of the team’s 23 goals this season have been scored in the second half.

Just three years ago, North went scoreless in his first season in purple, struggling to obtain minutes on a young squad that barely finished at .500.

With seven seniors on this year’s team, he pointed toward the greater veteran presence as the biggest change he’s seen in Lenahan’s program to date.

“There is a lot more leadership since my freshman season,” he said. “We’re a really close-knit senior class and that has helped us. When I was a freshman and sophomore, there were only two seniors on the squad each year. It’s a been a big help for our team, especially off the field.”

As the clock ticks on his college career, North has expressed interest in professional soccer. But for now, he continues to work toward the same goals from day one this season.

“I would love to go pro, as it’s always been my dream,” he said. “But I’m much more concerned with how our team is doing. If I’m scoring goals and we’re not winning, there’s no value in that.”

Reach Chris Gentilviso at [email protected]