Men’s Soccer: Northwestern heads to Ann Arbor for Big Ten play


Susan Du/Daily Senior Staffer

Sophomore defender Henry Herrill protects the Wildcats’ goal against an offensive attack. NU has allowed its opponent to reach the back of the net only once since the beginning of September.

Enrique Perez, Reporter

Northwestern will open up Big Ten play Saturday night at Michigan.

The Wolverines (2-2-3) have played a tough schedule thus far this season. Michigan was shut out by then-No. 2 Notre Dame and emerged victorious in one of four overtime matches.  The Wildcats (6-1-0), on the other hand, have won their last six consecutive games, but have yet to face a top-10 opponent.

Both opponents are familiar with each other as the Wolverines eliminated NU in last year’s Big Ten Tournament by a margin of 3-0 at Lakeside Field.

Coach Tim Lenahan said he’s also familiar with Michigan coach Chaka Daley, who is in his second season at the helm for the Wolverines.

“He’s been around for 20 years,” Lenahan said. “I’ve known Chaka since he was the assistant coach at Providence, so it’s not like he’s a new coach or there’s a new style. He’s Chaka, one of the most successful coaches out there.”

Riding a six-game winning streak, NU looks to extend its good form behind its stingy defense. Only one goal has been allowed during this stretch of wins.  Sophomore defender Henry Herrill has been a key player in making sure the team has remained balanced on offense and defense during the season.

“We know now that the Big Ten starts, it’s a clean slate,” Herrill said.  “It’s going to be a tough challenge against Michigan, but we’re very excited.”

In addition to Herrill’s efforts, the offense has outscored the opposition thanks to the solid play of redshirt senior midfielder Chris Ritter. He was recently named Big Ten Co-Offensive Player of the Week.

The Wolverines have gone into overtime in their latest pair of games, both away from home. They return to play in Ann Arbor, Mich., for the first time since a 1-0 loss to Marquette on September 13th.  It’s going to be tough to score on Michigan, as the team has only allowed one goal in the past two outings. Lenahan recognized Michigan’s defensive capabilities and said he credits Daley’s style with the program.

“I think he’s a little more defensively oriented than they were in the past,” Lenahan said. “I joked with him when he got here. He told me we’re going to be defensively organized, and we’re going to try to grind out some wins. I told him you can’t do that. That’s what we do.”

NU underwent a few changes this week with NU’s academic year getting started, in addition to the start of the Big Ten schedule. Lenahan emphasized focusing on preparation, especially in a week without weekday games.

“It’s almost good that we’re leaving this week,” he said. “I think it’s good that we’re able to do that and get to the hotel to monitor their preparation. Hopefully, some guys are reading on the way home on the bus, but we should also get them focused on soccer.”

The Cats go into Saturday’s game looking to improve their away record to a clean 5-0.

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