Depending on other results, No. 22 Northwestern (8-3-5, 3-1-3 Big Ten) has the chance to win the Big Ten regular season championship Wednesday night when the Wildcats play conference bottom-dweller Wisconsin (3-10-3, 0-6-1) at home in the last game of the regular season.
“We have to approach the game in a professional manner,” senior goalkeeper Tyler Miller said. “We have to make sure we are ready to play as soon as we start warming up, preparing mentally.”
The Badgers have not won a single away game this season, while the Wildcats are undefeated at Lakeside Field. In its most recent match, Wisconsin battled to pick up an impressive 2-2 draw against No. 2 Indiana. The match was the first point the Badgers have picked up in the Big Ten this season, with the team losing its other six matches.
“We just have to play well,” coach Tim Lenahan said. “Both teams expended a lot of energy for (their last two games). We have to make sure that we prepare ourselves mentally.”
Currently, Penn State (11-4-1, 5-3) stands at the top of the conference table with 15 points, but the Nittany Lions played their last Big Ten match of the season against NU on Sunday, where the Cats came out with a 2-1 win in double overtime. NU is behind them with 12 points in the standings.
Should the Cats win against Wisconsin on Wednesday, they would be tied at the top of the table. Maryland (10-5-2, 4-2-1) is the only team that controls its own destiny going into its final match of conference play against Rutgers (5-10-1, 1-5-1). A win would automatically grant the Terrapins the title, while a tie or a loss would put the Terrapins out of contention for the regular season championship. This match is occurring at the same time as NU’s match.
If Maryland loses or ties and NU wins, NU would be tied with Penn State at 15 points. The first tie breaker is head-to-head record, where the Cats would have an advantage over the Nittany Lions. But Miller isn’t getting carried away with all the permutations, and is just focusing on the upcoming match against the Badgers.
“We’re just trying to focus on our game, that’s all we can really control,” Miller said. “If we get the result then that’s great but if not we’re just going to take the result and go into the Big Ten tournament ready to win that.”
Wisconsin has scored a total of 18 goals this season but has no truly standout players offensively, with no player on the team scoring more than 4 goals. However, forward Mark Segbers has made a great contribution on offense as a freshman, notching 4 goals and five assists. The NU defense will do well to shut down Segbers.
Although the Cats have done a great job on defense this season, conceding only 10 goals, they have also been lacking in offensive firepower. Junior forward Joey Calistri, whose 12 goals last season led the Big Ten, has been able to put the ball into the back of the net only four times this year. Calistri has not scored since the match against Maryland on Oct. 5.
“Sometimes the goals just aren’t going in,” Lenahan said. “But I thought he was very effective on Sunday, and that’s all we ask of him, to keep working, come out here and train on some finishing, and hopefully we’ll have a stretch like he had last year. The big thing is to never stop working.”
Other players have stepped up in that department. Junior midfielder Cole Missimo, who prior to this season had only scored one goal in his NU career, is now the Cats’ top scorer with 5 goals. Finally, sophomore forward Mike Roberge has scored 3 goals in his last three conference matches.
Roberge said the team expects to advance deep in the Big Ten Tournament and beyond.
“All of us believe we have the talent, we have the team to do it,” Roberge said. “So we’re just hoping we can go as far as we can.”
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