Men’s Soccer: Cats hope to recreate October magic

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Men’s Soccer: Cats hope to recreate October magic

Meghan White/Daily senior staffer

Meghan White/Daily senior staffer

Meghan White/Daily senior staffer

Ava Wallace, Reporter

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Northwestern has good reason to be in high spirits as the month of October begins.

October was a magical month for NU last season, during which the team went on an 11-game winning streak that sent players to the 2011 NCAA tournament. Now, the No. 22 Cats (7-1-2, 2-0-0) are sitting atop the Big Ten after a 2-1 come-from-behind victory against Michigan State on Sunday.

But before the team can settle in for two home games next week, NU travels to Peoria, Ill. to play unranked Bradley (5-3-2, 0-0-0) in a Wednesday evening game.

Coach Tim Lenahan said after focusing on staying mentally strong and working to start games with high energy, his team is feeling confident about the rest of the season.

“I think that Sunday in the second half we showed that we have some heart and resilience and hopefully that continues when we step on the field tomorrow,” he said. “It’s going to be difficult in that atmosphere, to step on the field and play in front of a home crowd.”

Though Lenahan said the Cats have not played the Braves in the regular season since 2002, the two Illinois teams play more frequently during the off-season. 

And the teams share more similarities than a home state: only three of NU’s 16 goals have come before halftime throughout the season, and only five of Bradley’s 17 goals were scored during the first half. 

“You know it’s going to be two disciplined teams,” Lenahan said. “We’re certainly going to be aware that they play well in the second half.”

As usual, the Cats will depend on an all-hands-on-deck playing style to create opportunities in Peoria. NU currently leads the Big Ten with 18 assists. Sophomore defender Grant Wilson leads the conference in individual assists, with six in the early season.

Bradley, on the other hand, boasts a pair of heavy shooters, Keegan Balle and Jochen Graf, and averages 15.9 shots per game, as compared to NU’s 11.1. The Braves also edge the Cats out where it counts, scoring an average of 1.70 goals per game compared to 1.60.

Bradley is playing only its second home game in a month, which marked the Braves’ longest road stint in a decade. In its first game in Peoria since Sept. 2, the home team lost to Northern Kentucky 1-0. Before its return home, Bradley lost to San Jose State 3-2. After Bradley, NU will take a six-day rest before facing No. 8 Notre Dame in a night match on Lakeside Field, before returning to conference play on Oct. 14 against Ohio State, also at home.

But Bradley’s second-half squad, the formidable Fighting Irish and a conference matchup should give the Cats little to worry about if they play as well as they did last October.

Last year aside, Lenahan said he is mainly concerned with playing consistently.

“We’re focused on the process at this point,” he said. “We’re going to stick to the game plan and when we do that, usually good things happen.”

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