Wildcats gear up for final games of season with Loyola Chicago matchup

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Sean Su/Daily Senior Staffer

Senior defender Nikko Boxall, an essential cog in Northwestern’s defensive machine that has only allowed 8 goals, will look to subdue his fellow New Zealander, Ramblers forward Elliot Collier. As a freshman, Collier has scored a team-high 3 goals this season for Loyola.

Julian Gerez, Development and Recruitment Editor


Soccer


No. 20 Northwestern begins its final stretch of regular season matches with its last non-conference game Wednesday, as the team takes a short bus trip down south to take on Loyola Chicago, which is undefeated at home this season.

The Wildcats (7-2-5, 2-1-3 Big Ten) will look to gain momentum going into the last two conference games of the season against the Ramblers (5-4-5, 1-1-2 Missouri Valley Conference) on Wednesday night.

Sophomore forward Mike Roberge notched 2 goals in his last two games, first against Rutgers and then an impressive equalizer against Michigan State on Sunday.

“He’s playing well, he has a goal-scorer’s knack, and he’s made big progress from last year as a player,” coach Tim Lenahan said. “Certainly he’s done a good job. We can start to count on him as a player that can give us that burst when we need it.”

Having the sophomore step up is a warm welcome for Lenahan’s team, whose top two goal-scorers have 9 goals combined between them, but Roberge is the only other player who has scored more than one goal this season. The Pennsylvania native attributed his improved form to becoming more cohesive with his teammates.

“I’m feeling a lot more comfortable on the field,” Roberge said. “Everyday in practice everybody is working hard pushing each other to get better. It definitely helps playing with a great group of guys every day.”

One of Loyola’s younger players is making crucial contributions to his team as well. Forward Elliot Collier was recently named the MVC offensive player of the week after scoring the game-winning goal in their 3-2 match against University of Illinois-Chicago on Oct. 28. It was the freshman’s first game-winner in his career. After that match, Loyola faced Central Arkansas, where two periods of overtime were not enough to separate the two teams.

Collier is the Ramblers’ most potent goal-scoring threat. The New Zealand native has scored a team-leading 3 goals this season in only 828 minutes of playing time. Cats senior defender Nikko Boxall, another New Zealander, will be looking to shut down his fellow countryman and prevent him from improving his impressive first-year goal scoring record.

NU gave away yet another penalty at East Lansing, a game in which Lenahan described his players as ending up “exhausted.” The penalty the team gave up was the fifth the Cats conceded this season out of their 8 total goals allowed. Despite that, NU is ranked ninth in the nation in goals against average and is second best in the Big Ten in that category.

Much of the credit for these defensive performances must be given to senior goalkeeper Tyler Miller, who has made an impressive 47 saves this season and has a save percentage of 85.5 percent.

Miller and the defense will be looking to shut down a Loyola attack, which has scored 13 total goals this season with 6 coming in the first half of matches, 6 in the second half of their matches and a lone goal in overtime.

The caption of this story was updated Oct. 29 at 12:56 a.m.

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Twitter: @JulianEGerez

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