Men’s Soccer: Wildcats return home to face Penn State


Sean Su/Daily Senior Staffer

Grant Wilson out-leaps an opposing player to win a header. The senior defender is a key part of a back line that has only given up three goals in the past five games.

Tim Balk and Julian Gerez


No. 20 Northwestern comes back to Lakeside Field on Sunday to take on reigning Big Ten champion No. 18 Penn State, which is currently at the top of the conference table. 

The Wildcats will return home for the first time since Oct. 5, when they topped Maryland 3-2 in overtime.

“It will be good to get back home and play (Penn State),” senior defender Nikko Boxall said.

NU is undefeated at home, but faces a major test in the Nittany Lions.

“I can tell you right now they’re not going to win,” Boxall added. “If they win, they’re going to win the Big Ten regular season. We’re not going to let that happen.”

The Cats have struggled to produce goals recently. Last Sunday, NU’s offense managed just one goal against defensively stout Michigan State in 110 minutes of play, finishing in a 1-1 draw against the Spartans. On Wednesday in NU’s most recent contest, the Cats’ offense proved even more ineffectual, as they fell 1-0 in overtime to Loyola University of Chicago at the nearby Loyola Soccer Park.

Despite the offensive power outage, coach Tim Lenahan isn’t planning on making any adjustments. He says the defensively oriented Cats will stick to their approach.

“This is who we are,” Lenahan said. “We gotta play better and I think we will. We’re going to come out and do our best, and hopefully we come out with a win.”

Penn State was undefeated this season until they hit a bump with three straight losses against Maryland, Michigan State and West Virginia. The Nittany Lions won their most recent game against Wisconsin — NU’s final opponent of the season — by a score of 2-1 in double overtime.

Penn State’s offense has been difficult to stop this season, with the team scoring 24 goals in total on 228 shots.

Forward Connor Maloney has come up with 9 of those 24 goals along with three assists. The sophomore has been at the center of his team’s offensive capability and will have to be shut down by the enterprising NU defense.

While the Cats’ offense has been more subdued, it has also been more efficient. NU has scored 17 goals from 134 shots.

With the Big Ten Tournament looming, NU has only two chances left to enter it with momentum on its side.

They will look to capitalize on one of those chances against Penn State, which knocked off the Cats when the two programs last met a year ago in University Park, Pennsylvania.

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Twitter: @TimBalk

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Twitter: @JulianEGerez