Men’s Soccer: Last-minute header forces Northwestern into overtime loss

Enrique Perez, Reporter

No. 19 Northwestern fell 2-1 to No. 13 Penn State in a heartbreaking fashion Sunday.

The Wildcats (8-4-3, 1-2-1 Big Ten) were looking to notch their second Big Ten win since beating Michigan 2-0 in September. NU came through in Ann Arbor and hoped to pull out another road victory in University Park, Pa.

Penn State (10-3-1, 5-0-0) had an undefeated conference record heading into the matchup and was one win away from closing in on the Big Ten regular season title. With the stakes high, the Nittany Lions played aggressively throughout both halves but were mostly contained by the Cats.

NU threatened Penn State through most stages of the game, with players like senior midfielder Lepe Seetane taking shots at goal. The Nittany Lions’ goalkeeper Andrew Wolverton was efficient enough to see to it that those early threats didn’t convert into goals and a deficit. The Penn State defense broke in the second half and gave way to an NU score.

Sophomore forward Joey Calistri put NU up in the 60th minute with a precise back heel assisted by sophomore midfielder Cole Missimo. Missimo had been integral to the offense and its production throughout the entire roadtrip and added another contribution as he caused problems for the Nittany Lions. The responsibility of defending the lead, though, was then up to the Cats’ defense. NU’s defenders have bent but not broken at several points in the season — a testament to the defending style coach Tim Lenahan encourages.

The Nittany Lions pulled even in the 89th minute of the game when forward Jordan Tyler headed in a pass that deflected off an NU defender and went into the net. An unfortunate break forced the Cats into yet another overtime game. NU last went into overtime when it tied with Ohio State 0-0 last week.

Tyler intervened again, much to the dismay of the Cats.

Deep into the game’s second overtime period, Tyler reappeared to fire a shot into the back of the net and give the Nittany Lions another conference win and the regular season title. The 109th-minute strike handed the Cats yet another heartbreaking loss this season. This was evident in Lenahan’s analysis of the game.

“It was an unfortunate first goal, but they’re champions,” Lenahan said. “Champs have had things go their way and that’s what you need to be persistent. Clearly we can play with anyone, so we have to find ways to come up on top.”

Sophomore defender Henry Herrill also lauded Penn State’s performance.

“Coming down the stretch, it’s unfortunate that we lost,” Herrill said. “Hats off to them. They played a great game, and we couldn’t hang on the last minute and a half. We wanted to score in the second overtime and were playing offensively when they caught us off guard.”

Next up, the Cats take on Loyola on Wednesday as they return home to Lakeside Field for the final homestand of the season. NU has done well against non-conference competition this season and looks to finish strong starting this week.

“We just need to really focus because these last couple of games we’ve been losing games late,” Missimo said. “We’ve just got to come out and finish our chances.”

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