Men’s Soccer: Northwestern’s season ends in loss to top-seeded Michigan


Daily file photo by David Lee

Tommy Katsiyiannis fights for the ball. The freshman midfielder and the Wildcats saw their season end with a 4-1 loss to Michigan in the Big Ten tournament quarterfinals Sunday.

Benjy Apelbaum, Assistant Sports Editor

Men’s Soccer

Dealt a difficult hand due to its low seeding in the Big Ten Tournament, Northwestern watched its season come to an end Sunday with a 4-1 loss to top-ranked Michigan.

The Wildcats (7-12-0, 1-7-0 Big Ten) finished eighth out of nine teams in the Big Ten and, as a result, had to win a play-in game against ninth-seeded Rutgers (4-13-1, 0-8-0) before facing the No. 12 Wolverines (12-4-2, 6-1-1). NU beat the Scarlet Knights 3-2 on Saturday, but could not defeat the Big Ten’s best regular season team Sunday in Ann Arbor.

The Cats’ only conference victory this season came against the Scarlet Knights in a dominant 3-0 rout three weeks ago. In the rematch, NU again got out to a 3-0 lead after 63 minutes thanks to two goals from freshman midfielder Tommy Katsiyiannis.

This time, however, Rutgers battled back, quickly responding to Katsiyiannis’ second goal just 30 seconds later. The Scarlet Knights added one more goal in the 79th minute, but could not complete the comeback.

At the time, the win was the Cats’ fifth in their last seven games. During that stretch, NU averaged 2 goals per game, a significant improvement after averaging just 0.64 in its first 11 contests.

“We can take a lot of positives away from this season,” freshman defender Garrett Opperman said. “We learned to play as a team this year.”

Sunday’s showdown featured another rematch for the Cats, who suffered a 3-1 loss to Michigan in Ann Arbor in late September.

A packed schedule complicated matters for NU. The team played back-to-back days, something it had never done during the regular season. Further, rain and lightning delayed start time five hours and made the field tricky to play on. However, Katsiyiannis and Opperman both said the delay gave the team crucial time to heal after Saturday’s game.

“The delay gave us all a little more time to recover from the game yesterday. Every hour counts when you play the day before,” Opperman said. “That’s why you don’t want to get stuck in the eight or nine seed.”

Neither the Cats nor the Wolverines established control early in the game as the ball frequently changed possession. As the half wore on, Michigan forward Francis Atuahene began to find open space on the right side of the field. Atuahene eventually scored the Wolverines’ first goal in the 24th minute of the game on a long throw that skipped through the box and found his foot.

The Cats responded to the goal with increased energy and had opportunities to score off multiple set pieces throughout the rest of the half. NU’s breakthrough eventually came in the 49th minute during a scramble after a free kick when sophomore midfielder Mattias Tomasino headed the ball to Katsiyiannis, who found himself open behind the defense and beat the goalkeeper to tally his third goal of the weekend.

The tie was short-lived. Six minutes later, Wolverines forward Jack Hallahan smacked a ball from outside the box past junior goalkeeper Robbie White and into the top left corner of the net.

“(Michigan) countered very effectively and were a very experienced team,” Katsiyiannis said. “They knew what they were going to do to hurt us specifically going into the game.”

Michigan tacked on two more goals soon after, including a second from Hallahan.

The Cats would continue to battle as the clock wound down, but with plenty of mileage accrued over the course of two days, the team was unable to generate many opportunities. As the final seconds ticked off, NU’s season came to an end.

The Cats are set to graduate five players from this year’s team, but will return numerous key contributors as they look forward to next season.

“We really started to develop an attacking identity after the beginning of the season,” coach Tim Lenahan said. “We head into the offseason enthusiastic about our potential and our future.”

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