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Men’s Soccer: Northwestern seeks revenge in rematch against Bradley

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Goalkeeper Tyler Miller returned to the Wildcat lineup at the Big Ten Tournament and will start Thursday versus Bradley. The junior missed five regular-season games due to illness, robbing Northwestern of its defensive anchor.

Goalkeeper Tyler Miller returned to the Wildcat lineup at the Big Ten Tournament and will start Thursday versus Bradley. The junior missed five regular-season games due to illness, robbing Northwestern of its defensive anchor.

Susan Du/Daily Senior Staffer

Susan Du/Daily Senior Staffer

Goalkeeper Tyler Miller returned to the Wildcat lineup at the Big Ten Tournament and will start Thursday versus Bradley. The junior missed five regular-season games due to illness, robbing Northwestern of its defensive anchor.

Bobby Pillote, Reporter

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After a turbulent second half of the season, Northwestern has landed in the NCAA Tournament.

Having secured a bid with a 2-1 victory over Wisconsin in the Big Ten Tournament on Nov. 13, NU (10-7-3) is set to take on Bradley (13-5-2) Thursday night at Lakeside Field for the second time this year in the opening round of the NCAA Championship bracket.

The two teams first met Oct. 2, when the Braves knocked off the then-No.5 Wildcats in a 3-2 overtime victory.

“We had a chance to win right before they did,” coach Tim Lenahan said. “It’s a veteran group with a lot of seniors that has a great belief in their coach and system. … We know we’re going to play a mirror of ourselves.”

Injuries have plagued the Cats down the stretch. Midfielder Brandon Medina, a Big Ten All-Freshman Team selection, has missed most of the year with a torn ACL. Senior midfielder Chris Ritter, junior defender Nikko Boxall and junior goalkeeper Tyler Miller, all starters, have each missed various amounts of time this year due to injury or illness. With the roster’s strength recovered, Lenahan is confident that the team can make a deep tournament run.

“We were in a one-and-done situation last Wednesday,” Lenahan said. “Our season was over if we didn’t win. … We responded very well to that, and hopefully we’ll respond well on Thursday.”

Some reshuffling of the lineup has helped NU survive. Freshman Jeffrey Hopson, officially listed as a midfielder, has started at right back for the Cats in three of the past four games.

“Coach thought that it fit my skill set,” Hopson said. “I fit well in there. I like right back, and I’m getting some more quality minutes.”

The revitalized squad will look to avoid the mistakes it made in the last game against Bradley, in which the Cats rallied back from a late deficit but couldn’t hold onto that momentum in the overtime period.

Sophomore forward Joey Calistri, an All-Big Ten First Team selection and the conference’s leading scorer this season, tallied both of NU’s goals against Bradley. Calistri has powered the Cats offense all year, and the team has succeeded or failed with him. The sophomore was held scoreless from Oct. 6 to Oct. 20, a five-game span in which NU was 1-1-3.

However, the Cats have benefited from some unlikely goal scorers in their postseason push thus far, reflecting a more balanced approach from the team. Junior defender Grant Wilson and junior midfielder Eric Weberman found the back of the net for NU in its game against Wisconsin.

“We just have to follow our game plan,” Ritter said. “We know (Bradley) pretty well. … We know what we need to do and we have to get it done.”

Above all else, the Cats will hope to capitalize on their home field advantage in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

“I don’t think the student support was great this year,” Lenahan said. “Hopefully we get everybody out there. … This is an NCAA Tournament game on campus. We don’t have too many of those.”

Email: robertpillote2017@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @bobbypillote

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About the Writer
Bobby Pillote, Gameday Editor
Bobby is a McCormick junior studying industrial engineering and psychology. His past positions at The Daily include sports editor and assistant sports editor. He has covered football, men’s and women’s basketball, lacrosse and men’s soccer as a reporter. The Bethesda, Maryland native previously worked as a research intern for The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned...