Men’s Soccer: Northwestern closes out Michigan for first Big Ten victory

Enrique Perez, Reporter

Northwestern started this season’s Big Ten play with a win against Michigan at Ann Arbor, beating the Wolverines 2-0.

The Wildcats (7-1-0) improved their away record to a clean 3-0 as they ground out another defensive-minded win. The Wolverines (2-3-3), however, slipped to their second loss at home. Coach Tim Lenahan stressed that NU’s style of play was the key to victory.

“We were grinding today,” Lenahan said. “We got a 2-0 lead and forced the other team to break us down, so it’s not brain surgery. You’re not worried about rhythm. You’re just worried about the clock ticking, grinding and picking your moments to go forward. That’s what winning on the road in the Big Ten is all about.”

Michigan outshot the Cats 15-5 throughout the game, and the Wolverines started threatening from the first whistle. Fortunately for NU, junior goalkeeper Tyler Miller was present at the very back to execute some crucial interventions.

Miller was a defensive stalwart, making four saves throughout the game, and he praised the team for its collective effort when defending. The team’s defense has helped NU earn its sixth shutout of the season. It is also Miller’s sixth clean sheet of the season.

“We knew they were going to come out early firing and pumped up,” Miller said. “We stayed organized in the back, and we were able to fight through it and get that first goal to put us up.”

While the Cats maintained their stingy defensive play Saturday, their offense continued to link up well and push forward at the right moments. Freshman midfielder Brandon Medina had a bit of luck and finesse when he struck first for NU in the 28th minute on a free kick.

“It was a fortunate bounce and the goalie wasn’t expecting it,” Medina said. “I was very happy because we caught a break. They were all over us in the first 15 minutes, but then we got the goal. Then we just had to stay focused.”

The breakthrough was crucial and gave the Cats some breathing room from the Wolverines: NU outshot Michigan 7-2 in the first half. Things didn’t change very much in the second half, which was almost a carbon copy of the first, with the Wolverines outshooting NU.

The difference between those halves is how NU scored. The quality linking up between Medina and sophomore forward Joey Calistri was sublime. Calistri connected with a pass from Medina in the 47th minute to give the Cats some insurance as they went deeper into the second half, and the pair of goals proved to be enough to give them a win to start the Big Ten playing schedule.

“It’s always huge to start with a win,” Miller said. “We’ve got to carry that momentum. You feel more comfortable being one up instead of 0-1. We have that, so now we have to dig in and prepare for Bradley on Wednesday.”

The Cats will look for their eighth consecutive win as they host Bradley University on Wednesday night at Lakeside Field.

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