Men’s Soccer: Northwestern wins second in a row at home, remains undefeated in the Big Ten


Meghan White/Daily Senior Staffer

With help from the wind, sophomore Eric Webberman unexpectedly scores off of a free kick that bounced off of the crossbar and into the back of the net. The goal was the difference in the game.

Ava Wallace , Online Sports Editor

The defending Big Ten champions are doing well by their title so far this season.

Halfway through its conference schedule, Northwestern (9-2-2, 3-0-0 Big Ten) sits atop the Big Ten alongside No. 12 Indiana after Sunday’s 1-0 home win against Ohio State (5-8-1, 0-4-0). 

Although the Cats have yet to face their co-conference leaders — or Wisconsin or Penn State — Sunday’s strong midday showing bodes well for the rest of the year.

“We’re a program with four Big Ten wins in the first 15 years of the Big Ten – and I was a part of that, so I appreciate every Big Ten win,” coach Tim Lenahan said. “We’re just trying to grind our way through a very big conference schedule.”

The Cats are now undefeated in their last 11 conference matches, including 2011 Big Ten Tournament contests. Sunday’s matchup was also NU’s seventh straight regular season win against Ohio State.

The weekend match was also sophomore goalkeeper Tyler Miller’s 14th career shutout, the fifth for NU this season.

Along with scorer sophomore midfielder Eric Weberman, Miller and the Cats’ defensive line once again stole the show at Lakeside Field.

The Cats started the game as confidently as they did against Notre Dame. Commanding midfield possession and a sturdy defense led to multiple opportunities in the first half – NU had six shots compared to Ohio State’s one.

Largely because of the sharp backfield, Miller had only three saves for the game despite Ohio State’s eight total shots.

Lenahan repeated his praise of Miller from Tuesday’s Notre Dame victory and commended the goalkeeper’s game management and field sense.

Miller again applauded his back line — junior Scott Lakin, senior Jarrett Baughman, sophomore Grant Wilson and sophomore Nikko Boxall — for its cohesive defense.  Miller said Lakin and Wilson also stepped up to play big roles in the team’s midfield when Ohio State’s Zach Mason shadowed junior midfielder Lepe Seetane for most of the first half, effectively shutting down the usually touch-heavy midfielder.

“It definitely helps having so much maturity in the back; we’ve really locked down who our back four is from last year. Everybody knows what everybody needs help on and we’re all there to back each other up,” Miller said. “Scott and Grant did a good job of going up the flanks and creating dangerous services.”

The defenders also efficiently guarded reigning Big Ten offensive player of the year Chris Hegngi as well as Ohio State’s leading scorer Austin McAnena. Hegngi had only one shot for the game, and McAnena had two.

Weberman’s goal, his third for the season, came 10 minutes before the end of the first half. Having subbed in just 12 minutes before his goal, the sophomore launched a free kick off of his left foot from 45 yards out.

Ohio State goalkeeper Alex Wimmer didn’t even get a hand on the ball as it bounced off of the top left crossbar and into the back of the net.

“We knew we had the wind so we just had to play a hard ball,” Weberman said. “It kind of dropped and got a lucky bounce.”

Weberman is one of the Cats’ nine different goal-scorers this season, which lends an unpredictability to the team that Lenahan said is an advantage.

“The benefit is, you don’t really know who’s going to come up with the goal,” he said. “We knew it was going to be that way losing Oliver (Kupe) – that we were going to be goal by committee coming in, and we talked about having ten different players score goals before the year is up. We still have five games plus the tournament to make that happen.”

The second half of the game saw a fading NU midfield as Ohio State increased pressure and ended the period with seven shots, compared to the Cats’ three.

Explaining the second-half lag, Lenahan said his team is still recovering from Tuesday’s Notre Dame match-up and will take a day or two more to fully regain energy before playing Loyola in Chicago on Wednesday. 

“Today, we grinded a little bit,” Lenahan said. “We were a little bit emotionally tired from the big win on Tuesday. You try to prevent it, but it’s the reality of life. You gotta get back and play again.”