Northwestern hobbled to a 3-0 loss against Big Ten rival Indiana on Senior Night.
The Wildcats (9-6-3, 1-4-1 Big Ten) went into Friday’s game unranked for the first time this season and with only one conference victory to their name. That win came against the Wolverines on Sept. 28.
The Hoosiers (6-11-1, 2-4-0 Big Ten) matched them with one Big Ten victory of their own and were winless on the road. Both teams were coming off harsh losses, with NU suffering defeat at the hands of Wisconsin last week.
Although both sides were looking to take some momentum into the tournament, the Cats were forced to field a lineup riddled with injuries. Veterans such as senior midfielder Chris Ritter, junior defender Nikko Boxall and junior goalkeeper Tyler Miller were forced out of the last few regular season games with different ailments, giving other players the opportunities to see some action.
“We just have to be able to defend,” senior midfielder Lepe Seetane said. “We have to stay alert and do the little things. That takes a while, but it’s the little things that count.”
NU showed some sparks of offense in the early going, with sophomore forward Joey Calistri getting caught offside as he tried to get on the board. Sophomore midfielder Cole Missimo was unlucky to catch the underside of the crossbar and have it bounce out in the 23rd minute. Though Calistri made an effort to head the loose ball, it was saved and cleared by a quick Hoosier defense. Indiana’s defense did well to keep NU off the board, making clutch saves and taking the ball at the riskiest of moments early on.
Coach Tim Lenahan gave Nathan Dearth the nod to start the game, and the freshman defender joined the back line. Dearth was physical against the opposition, often clashing with a few Hoosiers in an attempt to win the ball back and clear it from danger. The Cats could only hold on for so long, however.
Indiana midfielder Dylan Mares knocked in the first goal of the game to put the Hoosiers up in the 34th minute. This came after a chaotic few seconds, in which the ball was kicked around inside the box by both teams and NU ultimately let up. The Hoosier goal was the only score in the first half — but not the last in the game for Indiana.
The Hoosier’s second tally arrived when midfielder Nikita Kotlov masterfully handled a cross from a teammate and volleyed it into the back of the net from inside the box. Kotlov controlled the ball enough so that it hit the crossbar yet still bounced in to double the lead.
Indiana midfielder Kyle Sparks tapped in a third and final Hoosier goal in the 77th minute after another hectic exchange on both ends of the field. Indiana was in a favorable position at the most opportune times throughout the span of the game, and NU was denied by the posts.
“We knew going in that they were a very talented team,” Calistri said. “They’re a lot better than their record shows and everyone knew they had good players. They have a lot of attacking talent going for them.”
Looking ahead to the Big Ten Tournament, NU takes the seventh seed and faces No. 2 Wisconsin in a rematch of last week’s game.
“Seeding in the Big Ten means nothing,” Lenahan said. “Whoever finishes second has to play us, two time defending Big Ten champions, and whoever finishes third has to play the defending national champs. It’s the only conference in the country where everyone goes in thinking they can win the championship.”
NU battles Wisconsin on Wednesday night in Columbus, Ohio, during the first round of action.
Email: [email protected]