Men’s Soccer: Northwestern prepares for ‘Big Ten time’ against Ohio State


Daily file photo by Meghan White

Junior Lepe Seetane scored his first goal of the season last week against Notre Dame.

Ava Wallace, Online Sports Editor

Northwestern will see if it can ride the high from Tuesday’s victory against No. 7 Notre Dame into its first conference matchup in two weeks.

The Wildcats (8-2-2, 2-0-0 Big Ten) face the Ohio State Buckeyes (5-7-1, 0-3-0) in their second consecutive home game on Sunday at Lakeside Field. The win erased memories of a shaky stretch of play for NU, in which the team alternated wins and losses.

Although NU has played a few sluggish periods this year, junior midfielder Lepe Seetane, who scored his first goal of the season Tuesday, says the Cats are ready for a return to conference play.

“It’s Big Ten time. It’s a whole different story,” Seetane said. “(Notre Dame) was fun, but when it comes to Big Ten time we know we have to grind out every game — especially Ohio State, they’re always tough.”
Mental-preparedness notwithstanding, NU has history on its side.

Last season, the Buckeyes were leading the Big Ten when the Cats beat them 3-2. The 2011 game marked NU’s sixth straight regular season win against the Buckeyes, who are currently second-to-last in conference standings.

NU is one of two unbeaten teams in the Big Ten, along with Indiana, and senior midfielder Chris Ritter is second in the conference with 12 points. Freshman forward Joey Calistri is second for goals in the Big Ten with five.

The combined star power of Ritter and Calistri has helped propel the Cats to several major victories. On Aug. 31 against Kentucky, with the Cats losing 1-0 late in the second half, Calistri notched his first career goal. NU went on to win the early season match 2-1 in overtime.

Ritter, meanwhile, continues to add to his impressive career numbers. The 2012 campaign has easily been his finest, though, as his previous season-high in points was 10.

Ohio State’s most notable victory this season was a 2-1 win against DePaul on Sept. 14, and, like the Cats, the Buckeyes are a second-half team. Ohio State has scored just five of its 19 goals this season before the half, while Northwestern has scored only six of its 19 goals in the first half.

The Buckeyes also shut out Bowling Green on Wednesday, in goalkeeper Alex Wimmer’s first clean sheet in a 14-game span.

Despite the team’s strong conference play and a Big Ten title from the 2011-2012 season, coach Tim Lenahan does not want the Cats to get ahead of themselves.

“You never defend a title, you try to win another one,” Lenahan said. “We needed a lot of energy and emotion for (Notre Dame). We need that same energy and emotion for Sunday.”

Calistri shares his coach’s sentiments. The freshman said the Notre Dame win will give his teammates some much-needed encouragement and added he is more optimistic about the Cats than he has been all season.

“It’s definitely a confidence boost after a couple of rough games we had against DePaul and Bradley,” Calistri said. “We still know we got a lot of work to do and a long road ahead of us until we can get where we want to be, but it’s a good step in the right direction.”