Men’s Soccer: With Big Ten title on the line, Northwestern isn’t looking past Wisconsin


Daily file photo by Nathan Richards

Joey Calistri shields off a defender. The senior forward will be leading the Cats’ attack when the team travels to Wisconsin with a chance to snatch the regular season conference championship.

Braden Couch, Reporter

Men’s Soccer

Northwestern looks to solidify its NCAA tournament resume against Wisconsin, with the team fresh off a thrilling 2-1 comeback victory over Penn State this weekend.

The Wildcats (7-7-2, 4-3-0 Big Ten) sit 1 point behind Big Ten leader Ohio State (10-5-2, 4-2-1). However, with a win against the Badgers (4-10-3, 1-3-3) and an Ohio State loss or draw to Michigan, the Cats can claim the Big Ten regular season championship.

NU is still in the NCAA tournament mix as well, and a regular season championship combined with a solid RPI ranking of 34 would be hard for the selection committee to overlook.

And with the Big Ten Tournament less than a week away, it is only natural to look ahead. However, coach Tim Lenahan cautioned against such thoughts.

“Wisconsin is a tough team. As I’ve said before, we have to take it one game at a time,” Lenahan said. “It doesn’t matter what their record is.”

Wisconsin has yet to post a victory at home this season and should be full of energy on its Fan Appreciation Night this Wednesday. Far removed from the NCAA tournament conversation, the Badgers can use this matchup as preparation for the Big Ten Tournament, where they can earn the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

Although the two teams are in very different places, NU senior forward Joey Calistri, one of Sunday’s heroes, said he believes the game presents an excellent opportunity.

“We’ve come a long way this season as a team, and this is just the next step,” Calistri said. “What we do tomorrow is important, and we can hopefully use it as a building block going forward.”

The Badgers lead the all-time series 26-11-5, but the Cats have won the two most recent meetings.

As NU’s season nears its end, several less talked about players have emerged as key contributors. Among them is junior defender Nathan Dearth, who has not only started all 16 games, but has also logged the most minutes of any outfield player. His headed goal proved the difference in Sunday’s victory.

Although Dearth said it was pleasant to see the ball reach the back of the net on his accord, he is also focused on what he and the team can do to keep the opposition off the board.

“Defending set pieces is something the back line has gotten better as the season has gone on,” Dearth said. “Obviously I don’t score a lot of goals, so it was nice to get one there.”

Wednesday’s regular season finale kicks off at 7 p.m., and the Cats are confident they have what it takes to close out the season strong.

“There are a lot of leaders on this team, not just upperclassmen, and we know that we are a capable group,” Calistri said.

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the Wildcats’ Big Ten conference record. They are 4-3. The Daily regrets the error.

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