Men’s Soccer: Wildcats hope to save season against Wisconsin in Big Ten Tournament


Brian Lee/Daily Senior Staffer

The Wildcats’ attempt to save an Indiana shot in Friday’s 3-0 loss to the Hoosiers. Northwestern’s season is on the line in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, where the team will meet No. 13 Wisconsin on Wednesday.

Enrique Perez, Reporter

Northwestern will try to rekindle any remaining title hopes against No. 13 Wisconsin in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament on Wednesday.

The last time the Wildcats (9-6-3, 1-4-1 Big Ten) played the Badgers (13-3-2, 4-2-0 Big Ten), Wisconsin left Lakeside Field after grinding out a narrow 1-0 victory. They will have a rematch Wednesday evening in Columbus, Ohio.

Conference rivals have bested the Cats lately. NU got off to a solid start, beating Michigan 2-0 in September. Coach Tim Lenahan knows the importance of each game, especially in the Big Ten Tournament.

“If we win the game, there’s a good chance we get into the NCAA Tournament,” Lenahan said. “If we lose the game, there’s a really good chance we’re not in the NCAA Tournament, so this is our NCAA Tournament. This is our must-win game. Either the season’s probably over, or, by the same token, if we do win there’s a good chance our name gets called next Monday.”

The Cats have been without strong players such as senior midfielder Chris Ritter, who has missed the last few games of the season with an injury but is optimistic about returning to the pitch. NU struggled in the final stretch of the regular season, dropping three of its last four games.

Despite this rough stretch, there is still a sense of hope around the team that keeps players looking forward. Ritter acknowledged that the team had good vibes going into the tournament.

“I think everyone’s feeling very good about the upcoming game against Wisconsin,” Ritter said. “There’s a lot on the line, but I think we’re in a good position. Everyone’s looking forward to a big game on Wednesday.”

The trip to Columbus, Ohio, for the tournament will give the Cats time to think about the game and reflect on the season. The matchup will be the beginning of the end in collegiate soccer for a few players. Ritter is a redshirt senior and is in his final year of eligibility.

“I’ve played in a number of these (tournaments),” Ritter said. “In my junior year, we won it. The bye helped us out a lot, but looking back on the teams who have won it in the past, it’s not necessarily the best team in the regular season. It’s about getting hot at the right time, and we hope that can be us.”

NU will try to rebound after falling to Indiana 3-0 last week. That game allowed the Hoosiers to leap into the fifth seed and forced the Cats back down the seventh seed, landing them a date with the second-seeded Badgers in the first round of tournament play.

The Cats were very limited against the Hoosiers, with some of their best players out with different ailments. Ritter, junior goalkeeper Tyler Miller and junior defender Nikko Boxall are all eager to return after taking time away from the field to deal with their conditions.

“We’re back,” Lenahan said. “The horses are back, so let’s be the team we were destined to become to begin with.”

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