Eliason nets ninth score in Cats’ victory

Sarah Kuta

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On the bus back from DeKalb to Evanston, Northwestern voted unanimously: It was all Eli.

Junior forward Matt Eliason began to describe the efforts of his teammates against Northern Illinois, but the Wildcats wouldn’t let him finish. To them, the answer was simple – Eli turned in the team’s best performance.

The 21st-ranked Cats held the Huskies scoreless in their third-straight 1-0 win Wednesday, on the road. The victory extended the Cats’ unbeaten streak to eight games.

One minute into the second half, the Cats (6-1-3) earned a free kick on a Northern Illinois foul just outside the box. Senior defender Mark Blades crossed the ball from the right and found Eliason, who headed the ball into the back of the net for his ninth goal of the season.

“We wanted to come out with a lot of energy and get the win however we could,” Eliason said.

Despite playing a mid-week afternoon game with a higher potential for a letdown, NU did just that.

“You can’t play every game with the ultimate emotion,” coach Tim Lenahan said. “Sometimes you just have to be good enough to beat the other team.”

After a full day of classes and an hour-and-a-half bus ride across the state, the Cats came out flat in the first half. But they quickly responded after intermission, scoring 46 seconds in. Then NU shifted its mentality to the defensive side of the ball, trying to hold off the Huskies’ high-powered offense.

“We got the goal that we needed,” he said. “What you kind of do is try and make the other team do something great to beat you, and we were able to hold them off.”

For senior keeper Misha Rosenthal, the win marked his second game back in goal after missing two due to injury. Rosenthal made six saves, five of which came in the second half, to nab his school-record 26th shutout.

Though the Huskies finished with a 15-11 shot advantage, Rosenthal was positive about the team’s defensive efforts.

“Our defense was absolutely phenomenal,” he said. “I’m really, really proud. They all did a great job just being warriors in there. Our back boys really did a good job.”

The goalie described Northern Illinois as a big and physical team, so NU countered with a keep-away gameplan. Lenahan said he felt the Cats did a good job of staying in front of the Huskies and making them shoot from a distance.

“Even though they had more shots, we definitely had more scoring chances,” he said.

And NU’s strong defense isn’t going unnoticed. Earlier this week, Rosenthal was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week and was added to Top Drawer Soccer’s National Team of the Week after recording seven saves in a 1-0 victory over No. 15 Ohio State.The team-appointed MVP has no doubt that the Cats can keep up their winning ways in their third game of the week Sunday against Penn State.

“This is a really tough week for us,” Eliason said. “We’ve got three away games against tough opponents. It’s important that we started out 2-0.”sarahkuta2012@u.northwestern.edu