Men’s Soccer: Wildcats seek grinding win on the road

Junior+midfielder+Eric+Weberman+has+found+the+back+of+the+net+once+in+13+appearances+this+fall.+He+and+the+Wildcats+travel+to+Ohio+State+this+weekend+to+tackle+the+Buckeyes+and+search+for+a+win.

Susan Du/Daily Senior Staffer

Junior midfielder Eric Weberman has found the back of the net once in 13 appearances this fall. He and the Wildcats travel to Ohio State this weekend to tackle the Buckeyes and search for a win.

Bobby Pillote, Reporter

After two consecutive ties, Northwestern will look to add to its Big Ten win total this weekend.

The No. 16 Wildcats (8-3-2, 1-1-0 Big Ten) face off against Ohio State (2-6-4, 0-2-1) Sunday afternoon, in what will be a tough road test for NU.

Scoring goals early will be vital for the Cats, especially against a Buckeyes team that has fought to four draws this season. NU has struggled on offense recently. After being held to no shots on goal against Southern Illinois University Edwardsville on Saturday, the Cats only recorded two shots on goal in their last game against Notre Dame. Sophomore midfielder Cole Missimo had the team’s lone score.

“We need to come with higher energy,” Missimo said. “But at the end of the Notre Dame game, we really got back to our ways.”

NU also discovered this week that freshman midfielder Brandon Medina will be out for the remainder of the season with a torn ACL. Medina, the squad leader in assists and a candidate for Big Ten Freshman of the Year, will be difficult for the Cats to replace in the middle.

“That’s going to have an impact on our attack,” coach Tim Lenahan said. “You have to grind a little bit more, and that’s why we’re not scoring two goals a game.”

Sophomore forward Joey Calistri, the team’s leading scorer this fall with 10 goals, hasn’t found the back of the net since Oct. 2, in a 3-2 loss against Bradley.

NU has played extra periods in four of its last five games. Of those four overtime matches, the Cats held a lead in only one, a roughly 25-minute stretch in an eventual loss to Michigan State.

“Soccer is a tight game,” Lenahan said. “It’s like basketball. As the year goes on, it gets much more half-court … When the games get tighter, the games get low scoring; and when the games get low scoring there’s a better chance you’re going to play overtime.”

Offensive struggles have also plagued Ohio State this season, with the team scoring just 7 goals through 12 games. The Buckeyes have only two wins this fall, and dropped their first two conference matches against Indiana and Michigan. However, the squad most recently battled to a 1-1 tie against the Spartans.

Ohio State and NU played each other twice last year, once in the regular season and again in the Big Ten Tournament, with the Cats winning both games. Junior midfielder Eric Weberman, who has 1 goal this year, scored the lone tally in NU’s 1-0 regular season victory.

“Last year we were able to find success off set plays and restarts,” Weberman said. “I think we’re pretty dangerous off those again this year.”

The Buckeye’s strength is in the net, where starting goalkeeper Alex Ivanov has allowed less than 1 goal per game. NU will continue to rely on its own defensive stalwart, junior netminder Tyler Miller. The goalie has led the Cats to an impressive eight shutouts this fall.

This game is an especially important one for an NU squad that is seeking its third consecutive Big Ten title. The Cats have one more game on the road against Penn State and then return home to face Wisconsin and Indiana in the final stretch of their conference slate.

“I’m just worried about Ohio State,” Lenahan said. “They’re tough trips, and you have to go and battle … We never set winning as our goal. We set playing as a team and playing well as our goals.”

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