Men’s Soccer: Wildcats look to continue hot streak

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Susan Du/Daily Senior Staffer

Sophomore Joey Calistri and the Wildcats will host No. 23 Wisconsin on Sunday in their second-to-last games of the season. The forward comfortably leads the Big Ten with 12 goals on the year.

Bobby Pillote, Reporter

Northwestern will attempt to even its conference record Sunday at Lakeside Field.

The No. 25 Wildcats (9-4-3, 1-2-1 Big Ten) defeated Loyola Chicago (4-10-2) in commanding fashion Wednesday, scoring 4 goals in the first 20 minutes en route to a 4-1 victory. NU will try to hold on to that momentum as it faces No. 23 Wisconsin (11-3-2, 2-2-0), a squad that has won six of its last eight matches.

Last season, the Cats and Badgers fought each other to a scoreless draw.

A big day on offense against Loyola was key for an NU team that has struggled to score throughout October. The Cats had three ties, two of which were scoreless, and lost another three games in overtime. Their only win during the month was a 1-0 victory over Northern Illinois on Oct. 9. Sophomore forward Joey Calistri, the Big Ten’s leading scorer with 12 goals this season, had two tallies in the Oct. 2 game versus Bradley but did not find the back of the net again until Oct. 27 against Penn State, a five-game drought.

NU has been most consistent this fall on defense. Thanks largely in part to standout junior goalkeeper Tyler Miller, seven of the Cats’ nine victories have been shutouts. Even with Miller absent due to illness, the NU back end hasn’t missed a beat. Sophomore backup Zak Allen has started the past three matches, making six saves and earning his first career shutout but only allowing three goals. The previous game against Loyola was Allen’s first career start in front of a home crowd.

“It was a great experience,” Allen said. “It was pretty tough (making my first start on the road), especially in a Big Ten game, but thankfully I had the confidence of my team and the confidence of my coach to back me up.”

Led by a dynamic scoring duo, the Wisconsin offense will be difficult to contain. Midfielder Nick Janus has been a stalwart for the Badgers, starting every game this season and scoring 7 goals and recording two assists. His midfield partner, Jacob Brindle, is a dangerous scoring threat off the bench. Despite starting only three games, Brindle leads the team this fall with 8 goals.

“They are a very mature team with lots of seniors,” coach Tim Lenahan said. “They’ve been close to breaking through and being a really good team the last three years, and this year they’ve done that. It’s a veteran group that’s played a lot of games over the years, and that’s certainly going to be a big challenge for us.”

Although the Badgers’ attack may be a paragon of teamwork, the goalkeeping for the squad certainly isn’t. Three of the four goalies on Wisconsin’s roster have spent time between the posts this season. In contrast, Miller had played every minute in goal for the Cats until falling ill. The leader of the Badgers pack is netminder Casey Beyers, a freshman who is allowing almost a goal and a half per game. Inconsistency in the Wisconsin defense is something NU will look to take advantage of.

The Cats are only 4-3-1 on their home turf and will seek an important conference victory in their penultimate game before they head into postseason play.

“It was good to bounce back and score four goals in a game,” Lenahan said. “You hope that momentum carries forward in some way.”

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Twitter: @bobbypillote

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