Men’s Soccer: Wildcats put season on the line against Rutgers


Daily file photo by David Lee

Tommy Katsiyiannis runs after the ball. The freshman midfielder and the Wildcats will play Rutgers on Saturday in the Big Ten Tournament.

Ella Brockway, Reporter

Men’s Soccer

It’s now or never for Northwestern.

The Wildcats (6-11, 1-7 Big Ten) will face Rutgers (4-12-1, 0-8 Big Ten) with their entire season on the line Saturday afternoon in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament. NU enters the tournament as the No. 8 seed and needs a win to advance and play top-seeded Michigan in the tournament quarterfinals Sunday.

“We all feel that we have more to give to the season,” freshman midfielder Tommy Katsiyiannis said. “We don’t think it’s over. We think we still have more to play for and we’re all really looking forward to giving it all we got this weekend.”

The two teams are not strangers: they last met Oct. 15 at Martin Stadium, when the Cats clinched a 3-0 win for their first and only Big Ten victory of the season.

Saturday’s game will be played in Ann Arbor, Michigan, adding another element of difficulty to an already high-stakes game. NU has struggled on the road this season, with eight losses and just one win in its nine away games.

Despite a 3-1 loss on the road against the Wolverines this season, the Cats have had some bright postseason moments in program history in Michigan, coach Tim Lenahan said. NU advanced to its first Big Ten Tournament final in 2004 and won the program’s first and only Big Ten Tournament title in 2011, both in Ann Arbor.

“We have fond memories in this program of being at Michigan, so hopefully we can make it another historic weekend,” Lenahan said.

The Cats converted on offensive opportunities in their previous meeting with Rutgers, finishing with a season-high tying three goals and nine out of their 13 shots on target. Katsiyiannis, who scored two of NU’s three goals against Rutgers and leads the team with four goals on the year, will be a focal point of the offense in Saturday’s rematch.

The Cats won four of their final six games to close out the regular season and saw their attack improve in October. The 11 goals scored in the six-game stretch, starting in a 3-2 win over Western Illinois on Oct. 9, were four more than the team had scored in the previous 11 games combined.

Junior midfielder Camden Buescher said it will be key for NU to push the attack, especially after a slow offensive performance in last Sunday’s 2-1 loss to Penn State.

“When we played tough teams in the regular season, we started off slow and let them get on us and score early on us,” Buescher said. “We need to start quick and not let these teams jump on us, and play with more confidence.”

The Cats and the Scarlet Knights are both low-scoring teams, each with only 18 goals on the season. Lenahan and his players know that one single chance or shot attempt could be the deciding difference in Saturday’s match, and in the rest of NU’s season.

“We know that we can play with anybody, but we miss the details sometimes,” Lenahan said. “Whether it’s on (the) clearance or making sure our shots are on target, (it’s about) just really paying attention to those details, and hopefully we can do that this weekend.”

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