Men’s Soccer: Northwestern prepares for giant-killer


Susan Du/Daily Senior Staffer

Goalie Tyler Miller has keyed Northwestern’s recent hot streak. The junior is two-time reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week for a team that has won seven straight games entering its Wednesday match with Bradley.

Enrique Perez, Reporter

Northwestern is hoping to avoid being the latest giant to fall at the hands of upset-happy Bradley University.

No. 5 NU looks to extend its winning streak to an astounding eight wins in a row Wednesday night against Bradley. The last time they were in action, the Wildcats (7-1-0) (1-0-0) trumped Michigan in Ann Arbor by a score of 2-0. Now, NU hosts an upset-minded Bradley (4-3-1) (0-0-0).

“Bradley’s not upset-savvy,” coach Tim Lenahan said. “Bradley’s a very, very good program that’s been to the NCAA tournament a number of times. I know their coach very well. He follows the same model we do.”

This season, Bradley has played well enough to upset the former No. 1 team in the country, Connecticut on Sept. 14. The final score was 1-0 as junior defender Zach Kovacevic scored a penalty kick for the Braves.

Bradley also took then-No. 6 ranked Cal State Northridge to the wire before the Matadors scored a goal in the 89th minute to seal a win. Bradley has proved their quality and has the experience in the program to back it up.  Lenahan praised the Braves’ formula for success and culture.

“Any team that cares as much as they do is going to be a challenge,” Lenahan said. “You just can’t let them ‘outcare’ you on the night. They’re very difficult to play, and they have a very strong family culture within their program that enables them to have a lot of success over the years.”

The Wildcats have shut out six teams so far this season. They dominated Michigan this past Saturday thanks to junior goalkeeper Tyler Miller, who had four saves throughout that game. The fine performance earned Miller the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week award.

“It’s always great to get an award, but it’s not just me back there,” Miller said. “It’s the whole team that defended like a unit. It’s a shame it can only be given to one player because I think the whole team deserves to get recognized for that.”

Focus has been key to the Cats’ success this season.  With NU soaring in the rankings and riding an increasingly long winning streak, the players have to be as mentally sharp as possible. The discipline and culture within the program is evident in the team’s recent run. Composure and maturity are necessary for a team to foster continuous success. Senior midfielder Chris Ritter brings both of those qualities to the Cats, providing another layer of leadership to the squad.

“We’re definitely off to a good start, but I think our whole team will agree that we haven’t played our best,” Ritter said. “There’s definitely another level to our game, so hopefully in the coming weeks we’ll bring that out.”

Although many would present Wednesday’s clash as a trap game, the players are well aware of the task at hand. Bradley plays hard and their coach, Jim DeRose, has the credentials to prove his program has been successful enough to play and beat any team any given day. Last season, when the two teams met, the Braves beat the Cats 3-1.

NU hopes to avoid a shocker before it goes into the weekend for a high-stakes matchup with Michigan State.

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