Men’s Soccer: Struggling Northwestern prepares to battle flailing champion Indiana

Sophomore+forward+Joey+Calistri+tops+the+goals+leaderboard+in+the+Big+Ten+but+has+lost+much+of+his+firepower+since+conference+play+started.+Of+his+12+goals+on+this+season%2C+only+2+have+come+against+Big+Ten+opponents.
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Men’s Soccer: Struggling Northwestern prepares to battle flailing champion Indiana

Sophomore forward Joey Calistri tops the goals leaderboard in the Big Ten but has lost much of his firepower since conference play started. Of his 12 goals on this season, only 2 have come against Big Ten opponents.

Sophomore forward Joey Calistri tops the goals leaderboard in the Big Ten but has lost much of his firepower since conference play started. Of his 12 goals on this season, only 2 have come against Big Ten opponents.

Brian Lee/Daily Senior Staffer

Sophomore forward Joey Calistri tops the goals leaderboard in the Big Ten but has lost much of his firepower since conference play started. Of his 12 goals on this season, only 2 have come against Big Ten opponents.

Brian Lee/Daily Senior Staffer

Brian Lee/Daily Senior Staffer

Sophomore forward Joey Calistri tops the goals leaderboard in the Big Ten but has lost much of his firepower since conference play started. Of his 12 goals on this season, only 2 have come against Big Ten opponents.

Bobby Pillote, Reporter

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Two teams defined by their struggles this season will battle each other at Lakeside Field on Friday.

Northwestern (9-5-3, 1-3-1 Big Ten), not ranked this week for the first time all season, will play host to the Indiana Hoosiers (5-11-1, 1-4-0), last year’s national champion and the preseason No. 1 team.

The Wildcats started the year hot. Sophomore forward Joey Calistri, the Big Ten’s leading scorer with 12 goals this fall, powered the offense through the team’s nonconference schedule. However, the dynamic striker has just 2 goals against Big Ten opponents, contributing to many of the squad’s scoring woes throughout the second half of this season.

A string of injuries to key players has also hobbled NU. Freshman midfielder Brandon Medina, considered to be a contender for Big Ten Freshman of the Year before his injury, tore his ACL in the Oct. 9 match against Northern Illinois. At the time, Medina led the team with five assists. The Cats have been most hurt by the loss of senior midfielder Chris Ritter, a team co-captain and the reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. Ritter sprained his ankle 20 minutes into a 4-1 rout of Loyola on Oct. 30 and missed the last game against Wisconsin, a 1-0 loss. However, coach Tim Lenahan is confident that Ritter will be healthy in time for conference tournament play.

“Ritter will be out for Friday,” Lenahan said. “But that’s our goal right now: to be as healthy as we can for next week. … We’re not going to kill guys knowing that there are games ahead.”

Junior goalkeeper Tyler Miller also missed the last four games, sidelined due to an illness. Sophomore backup Zak Allen has filled in admirably, recording his first career shutout Oct. 20 against Ohio State, but it’s clear the Cats are still missing the presence of the player who has led them to eight shutout victories this year.

Indiana, meanwhile, simply hasn’t been able to wake up from its nightmare of a season. A horrible October, in which the Hoosiers lost six of their seven games, doomed the squad to its dismal record. The preseason No. 1 team has been tumbling down the rankings ever since a string of three consecutive losses to start the month of September.

“They’ve given up too many goals in overtime,” Lenahan said. “If you look at their stats, in terms of shooting and how many corner kicks they’ve generated, they’ve pretty much dominated every team that they’ve played. … Everyone keeps waiting for the sleeping giant to awake. Nobody would be surprised if they won nine or ten straight games and won the national championship.”

Inconsistent play in goal has hamstrung Indiana throughout its schedule. Starting goalkeeper Michael Soderlund has been porous at best, allowing well over a goal and a half per game. His backup, Colin Webb, surrendered 5 goals in his only appearance of the season before promptly returning to the bench,

Both teams are in search of a win to catapult them up the conference standings on the eve of the Big Ten Tournament.

“Every group thinks that they’re winning the tournament next week,” Lenahan said. “Whether they come out of the seven-hole or the one-hole. … It’s just such a parity driven league.”

Email: robertpillote@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @bobbypillote

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