Daily file photo by Zack Laurence
An up-and-down year for Northwestern ended in the marshes of northern New Jersey, courtesy of a 2-0 loss to Rutgers in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals Sunday.
The Wildcats (7-9-2, 4-4-0 Big Ten) were in a tight game throughout, but by the close of play there was no denying that Rutgers (12-5-1, 4-4-0) deserved to advance. The Scarlet Knights logged 18 shots to NU’s 12 and were the more aggressive team throughout the day.
The defeat was the second in a row for the Cats and left them with their first sub-.500 finish since 2002, eliminating them from consideration for an NCAA Tournament berth.
NU appeared to be in control for most of the first half, and the Scarlet Knights only went ahead following a miraculous save by Cats senior keeper Zak Allen in the 23rd minute. His punching save ricocheted the ball to Scarlet Knights midfielder Mitchell Taintor, who had no trouble slotting the ball into the now empty net.
Allen made a number of impressive saves to keep his team in the game, and NU seemed to peak roughly 10 minutes into the second half. Cats senior midfielder Cole Missimo’s 56th-minute shot was saved, and the attempt off the rebound from junior forward Mike Roberge went wide. Missimo’s shot would be the last NU managed on target.
The remaining action saw the Cats pressing further and further up the field, but continually unable to equalize. It was all but over when Rutgers took advantage of the Cats’ high press and scored on the counter in the 85th minute, with Taintor finishing to cap an impressive brace.
It was a disappointing end to a season that was the last for a number of key NU contributors, most notably seniors Allen and Joey Calistri. Calistri finishes his impressive career with 30 goals, the second highest number of goals scored in school history.
Rutgers continues to make its case for inclusion in the NCAA Tournament and will face Big Ten regular season champion Ohio State in the semifinals.
Despite failing to return to the NCAA Tournament, the Cats certainly had an entertaining season, highlighted by a thrilling 1-1 tie with then-No. 8 Notre Dame and an impressive overtime upset of then-No. 13 Maryland 2-1. NU can look to those moments as it heads into a long offseason.
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