Men’s Soccer: Wildcats’ season ends in first round of NCAA tournament


Sean Su/Daily Senior Staffer

Nikko Boxall composes himself after the loss. The first-round NCAA Tournament game was the senior defender’s last at Northwestern.

Julian Gerez, Development and Recruitment Editor


A handful of missed opportunities cost Northwestern the chance to continue moving forward in the NCAA Tournament.

SIU-Edwardsville (8-8-4, 4-1-1 Missouri Valley Conference) defeated No. 17 NU (9-4-6, 4-1-3 Big Ten) in the first round of the tournament Thursday afternoon 1-0, ending the Wildcats’ season.

It was NU’s first loss at home this season and SIU-Edwardsville’s first victory over a ranked opponent this season.

“Full credit to SIU-E, they really came on,” coach Tim Lenahan said. “We were going to press them and determine the outcome of the game, but when we do that you have to score goals. We know when you press like that and you attack you might give up a goal. … We just did not make a play in the final third.”

Sophomore midfielder Paul Scheipeter picked an opportune time to score his first goal of the season, with his 81st minute shot sealing the victory for the Cougars. NU played well despite the loss, dominating possession and getting lots of good chances.

“I thought we played really well, we played with our hearts the whole game,” senior goalkeeper Tyler Miller said. “But you gotta hand it to SIU-E.”

SIU-Edwardsville started the game off with its backup goalie, Kyle Dal Santo. The redshirt freshman had not started a single game this season but stepped up on the big stage, making eight saves throughout the match.

NU got off to a bright start right at the beginning of the match as sophomore forward Mike Roberge saw his header from inside the box saved.

Not much else happened in the first half besides two penalty claims by the Cougars being waved away by the referees. Both teams seemed to be playing conservatively in order to avoid falling behind.

In the second half, the Wildcats had a lot of clear-cut chances. Junior forward Joey Calistri found himself in a lot of space on the left side of the field, but several of his crosses were battered away by the SIU-Edwardsville defense.

In the 61st minute after a corner kick by NU, there was pandemonium inside the 18-yard-box as three of the Cats’ shots were blocked by a wall of red on the goal line.

Nine minutes later, SIU-Edwardsville forward and top-scorer Christian Volesky headed a ball that was saved by Miller. Volesky received the rebound and quickly took another shot that was destined to hit the back of the net if not for a sprawling save by Miller’s foot.

Immediately after that chance, NU countered and Calistri rounded Dal Santo but couldn’t work the angle and hit the post. Later, freshman forward Sam Forsgren saw a shot roll agonizingly wide of the goal.

In the 81st minute, the Cats were left to regret their missed chances. A counterattack by SIUE led to an incredible block by senior defender Nikko Boxall, but his touch just got a bit away from him and Scheipeter was there to put the ball into the back of the net. Miller was beat for just the 12th time this season.

“We had some good chances that we didn’t put away,” Boxall said. “They managed to squeeze one through. It’s unfortunate.”

NU threw everything it could forward in the remaining minutes of the match, changing its formation to accommodate only three defenders instead of four and pushing up almost everyone on the team.

On the break, Volesky, who was mostly subdued by the Cats defense throughout the match, had the chance to put the game out of reach but couldn’t chip the tall Miller.

Despite the Cats’ best efforts, it ultimately wasn’t enough as the game and season went away for NU.

“You can’t have any idea how disappointed we are right now,” Lenahan said. “We’re disappointed with the result but not disappointed with the effort, not disappointed with our preparation, not disappointed with the collective spirit of the group. The sad part is I gotta say goodbye to some great guys that have really invested in this program.”

One of those guys is Miller, and even though he’s graduating, he said that he is confident in the team moving forward.

“It’s been an honor to lead them all season,” he said of the classes below him. “I know they’re going to do great things next year.”

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