Soccer roundup: Men win Lakeside Classic, women fall short in Big Ten opener

Chris Johnson and Ariel Yong

NU men’s soccer wins Lakeside Classic, extends streak

Before asking coach Tim Lenahan about Northwestern’s regular season win streak, make sure to get the facts straight.

“I didn’t go to Northwestern, but I believe that’s 16 straight wins,” Lenahan said after his team’s 2-0 victory Sunday over Milwaukee to win the Lakeside Classic.

Indeed, with two more wins over the weekend, the Wildcats have not lost a regular season game since September 28, 2011. Their flawless run garnered national attention before this season began, with NU breaching the NCAA preseason Top 25 and sitting atop the Big Ten preseason poll. The focus now shifts to conference play, which begins Sunday when NU hosts Michigan.

“It’s a different level of intensity,” Lenahan said.

The Wildcats made strides this weekend toward preparing for conference play. In a tiring Friday-Sunday tournament format, NU – hampered by injuries to several key contributors, including seniors Kyle Shickeland Lepe Seetane and juniors Layth Masri and Connor Holloway – defeated Iona and Milwaukee by a combined score of 4-0.

“We try to take one game at a time,” Lenahan said. “We’re just trying to get results right now.”

On Friday, the Wildcats got another strong performance from freshman Joey Calistri, who scored his team-leading fourth goal early in the second half. Shickel followed suit with his third tally on the season.

Calistri’s torrid start is just one of the ways NU’s youth has propelled its nonconference success. Sophomore Eric Weberman, after struggling with fitness problems last season, has found his form. And freshman HenryHarrill, who registered two assists in his first start Sunday, has shown he can contribute later in the season.

Lenahan has taken notice.

“For Joey, I like the fact that he’s scored four goals in seven games,” Lenahan said. “That’s impressive not just for a freshman but for anyone. Eric Weberman is taking a big step this year. He had some issues with fitness, but he’s worked hard and it shows. And Henry, getting two assists, that was huge.”

The quick two-day turnaround led to a slow start in Sunday’s match. Again NU waited until the second half to score its first goal, which came when sophomore defender Nikko Boxall pounced on a rebound just outside the six-yard box, scoring for only the second time in his NU career. Senior Nick Gendron sealed the deal in the 63rd minute when he headed a Herrill cross home, his first goal of the season.

This weekend marked the second year in a row that the Wildcats took home the Lakeside Classic crown. Four Wildcats were named to the All-Tournament team: sophomore goalie Tyler Miller, sophomore midfielder Grant Wilson, Calistri and Boxall. Lenahan said he was impressed with his team’s resiliency throughout the weekend.

“Soccer games at this high level are not meant to be played within 36 hours of each other,” he said. “Finding the energy and resolve to play that second game is tough, and we were able to do that. These Friday-Sunday tournaments are more about will than skill. I knew we would be lethargic in that second game, but we overcame that.”

With the Wolverines coming to town in one week’s time, Lenahan is focused on preparing his team for the conference season. NU chose a hectic nonleague slate to harden itself for Big Ten competition, and the coming week provides a much-needed respite before the Wildcats try to validate their preseason ranking with a successful conference title defense.

“We just need to try and get recharged now,” he said. “We’ve played a lot of games. We need to try to heal. Conference play is a different intensity level.”

Preserving the unbeaten streak through a rigorous Big Ten schedule is a tall order. But with an emerging mix of youngsters and a core of upperclassmen whom Lenahan said, “have played very well,” the Wildcats are proving they have what it takes to make noise in the Big Ten.

— Chris Johnson

NU women’s soccer falls to Nebraska in Big Ten opener

One week after eclipsing its win total from a year ago, Northwestern fell back to earth last weekend.

The Wildcats (4-3-2) were defeated by Nebraska (4-4-0) 2-0 in their first conference game Friday night, two days before tying Oakland (3-2-3) on Sunday.

Against the Huskers, the Cats spent the majority of the first half on defense, getting outshot 9-2 in the frame. Nebraska first found the back of the net in the 24th minute when Jackson Jordan took a 16 yard shot that spun off of sophomore goalkeeper Anna Cassell’s hands into the goal.

Despite Cassell’s six saves, the Huskers shut the door in the 67th minute with their second goal, defeating the Wildcats 2-0.

NU coach Mike Moynihan said the shutout was a “rude awakening” for the team.

“I thought that Nebraska’s mentality was far more tough, mature and aggressive than ours,” Moynihan said. “While we don’t want to get into the physical, aggressive, battle type thing, we need to be far more assertive in our mentality.”

The Wildcat offense fell flat, taking seven total shots and recording only one shot on goal.

“We came out a little too casual and that didn’t help us overall,” junior forward Kate Allen said. “It took us until the first goal to start competing. I feel like it was frustration and we all felt it because we know we can all give a little bit more.”

Despite Friday’s lackluster offense, the Wildcats managed to come from behind and battle through two overtimes to tie the Golden Grizzlies (3-2-3) 1-1 on Sunday. Oakland’s Kyla Kellermann scored in the 46th minute, but Allen responded with a Wildcat goal only six minutes later.

During Sunday’s game, the Wildcats nearly doubled the number of total shots they took Friday. Moynihan said that the team was more reactive and played better soccer overall.

“[In the] second half, we were fantastic,” Moynihan said. “We showed more maturity fighting and the players showed a good effort.”

Despite the fact that the Wildcats didn’t pull off a win this weekend, Moynihan said that he isn’t too concerned, given that the team is at a better point than it was at this time last year.

“Every game we’ve played, we’ve gotten good chances but we haven’t been able to convert,” Moynihan said. “It takes time and consistent effort to get better in some of the areas. Some of the decision making is not a simple thing to fix.”

Both Allen and Cassell commented on the team’s slow starts and room for improvement on offense, but said next weekend’s games will be different.

— Ariel Yong