Men’s Soccer: Sluggish first half dooms Northwestern in loss to SIU-E

Ben Pope, Reporter

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A late rally wasn’t enough to overcome a two-goal deficit as Northwestern fell 2-1 to Southern Illinois-Edwardsville on Saturday night.

After a sloppy first half in which the Wildcats (5-5-1, 2-2-0 Big Ten) didn’t register their first shot attempt until the 34th minute, they saw themselves down 1-0 heading into the break. NU pushed forward more as the game went on and eventually found a goal off the foot of junior forward Mike Roberge in the 69th minute. They were unable to produce an equalizer, however, and thus failed to enact revenge on the team that eliminated them in last year’s NCAA Tournament.

“We didn’t do enough in the first half,” coach Tim Lenahan said. “You can’t just show up and hope that your team wins. They were much more the aggressive team and we only woke up when there were 20 minutes left.”

The Cougars (7-3-1, 1-1-0 Missouri Valley Conference) broke a defensive stalemate in the 33nd minute thanks to a singlehanded counter-attack by forward Devyn Jambga. Jambga horizontally cut across NU’s defense outside the box, catching redshirt senior Nati Schnitman out of position, and then out-maneuvered senior Henry Herrill and placed a rolling shot into the right side netting.

SIU-E nearly doubled the lead in the 51st minute when a searing volley by forward TC Hull hammered the crossbar and bounced back into play, but then successfully extended its lead five minutes later.

Defender Brett Lane blasted a shot from the top of the box into the upper right corner of the net, leaving NU senior goalkeeper Zak Allen with no chance to make a save.

“They had two pretty nice goals against us,” Allen said. “We tried to possess, tried to play through them, but they had more energy.

The Cats cut the lead in half 12 minutes later via Roberge’s first goal of the season

After a cross into the box was punched away by Cougars goalkeeper Kyle Dal Santo, sophomore midfielder Riley Kelliher attempted a shot from outside the box that ricocheted through a crowd of bodies and opportunistically arrived at the feet of Roberge from eight yards out.

“Coach is always harping on us to stay alive at the back post,” Roberge said. “Riley did a really good job keeping the ball alive with his shot and … I saw the ball coming and just was able to flick it in.”
Allen made his best save of the game — a leaping dive to his right — to keep NU alive in the 87th minute, but a one-time blast from freshman midfielder Camden Buescher at the top of the box sailed over the crossbar in the dying seconds to end the game.

The match, held at Flames Field on the campus of Illinois-Chicago, was a chippy affair: SIU-E committed 23 fouls (including two yellow cards) while NU totaled just 10, yet verbal confrontations between players and referee were a theme of the night for both sides.

Jambga frustrated the Cats’ back end all night long, not only scoring his team-leading fifth goal of the season, but also blasting four shots toward goal and consistently pressuring any player in possession.

“We gave a little better showing in the second half but we dug ourselves a hole and couldn’t get out of it,” Lenahan said. “I just didn’t think we had the energy necessary to win a Division I game against a good opponent.”

Correction: Due to an editing error, a previous version of this story misstated the times of several goals and attempted goals. The Cats attempted their first shot in the 34th minute and scored a goal in the 69th minute. The Cougars scored a goal in the 33rd minute and attempted a shot in the 51st minute. The Daily regrets the errors.