Men’s Soccer: Cats have lost last 3 of 4

Jimmy Mitchell

Heading into the Big Ten tournament, No. 8 Northwestern had an opportunity to gain momentum with a victory in the team’s last regular season game.

Instead, the Wildcats (12-3-2, 3-3-0 Big Ten) fell to conference rival No. 23 Indiana 2-0 in Bloomington, Ind., on Friday. With the loss, NU has dropped three of its last four matches after going unbeaten in its first 13 contests of the season.

Nevertheless, the Cats finished the regular season with the best overall record of any team in the Big Ten.

“We started out hot,” junior defender Pat Coleman said. “All teams during the season go through a rough stretch, and I think ours just happened to be at the end. So we’re still staying positive. We’re looking to regroup before the Big Ten tournament.”

After the lackluster play of the last two weeks, NU seems in need of a rebound. The Cats were unable to improve their level of play Friday, thanks in large part to the absence of junior goalkeeper Misha Rosenthal.

Rosenthal, whose 11 shutouts in 2008 were the most in the Big Ten, was relegated to the sidelines in Indiana due to an injured knee. Redshirt freshman Drew Kotler, who before Friday had yet to start in his college career, was coach Tim Lenahan’s choice to replace Rosenthal.

“It was such a tough situation to be thrown into. It’s like being asked as a freshman quarterback to play against USC,” Lenahan said. “He made a great save 10 minutes into the game and kept us in the game. But we didn’t play particularly well in front of him.”

Kotler recorded the first of his career-high six saves just minutes into the match Friday, making a diving stop on a shot from Indiana (10-5-3, 3-3-0) forward Will Bruin.

Despite the auspicious beginning for NU, the team’s fortunes quickly faded.

Bruin did not miss on his next opportunity, as midway through the first half he headed a corner kick directly into the back of the net to put Indiana ahead.

The Hoosiers doubled their lead later in the half, as a shot stopped by Kotler was rebounded by Indiana midfielder John Mellencamp, who took advantage of the possession and quickly scored.

Coleman said the NU defense has not played to its potential in the last several games.

“We just need to get back to doing all the little things right in the beginning of the game,” he said. “We need to go after tackles a little harder and be more aware of what’s going on in the game.”

The Cats, unable to capitalize on any opportunities in the second half, finished Friday’s match scoreless for the second consecutive game. Indiana out-shot NU by a tally of 20-8, and Matt Eliason, the Cats’ leading scorer, was unable to execute a single shot on goal.

“We really rode atop (Eliason’s) back for a good stretch of the season, and now we’re getting into situations where he’s a very heavily marked man,” Lenahan said. “You’re going to see a team playing with a sense of urgency down the stretch here. I think that’s what it takes to be successful in tournament play.”

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