Men’s Soccer: Northwestern prepares to face defending national champion in Big Ten quarterfinal


Daily file photo by Evan Robinson-Johnson

Bardia Kimiavi waves to the crowd. The sophomore midfielder scored Northwestern’s first goal in their 3-1 win over then No. 25 Maryland in September.

Drew Schott, Reporter

Men’s Soccer

In September, Northwestern upset defending national champion Maryland 3-1 on the road in College Park, Md. Now, two months later, the Wildcats have the chance to defeat the Terrapins once again.

NU (8-7-2, 3-3-2 Big Ten), seeded No. 4 in the Big Ten Tournament, will face No. 5 seeded Maryland (9-6-2, 3-3-2) on Sunday in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament. The Cats are hosting the match, making it their first home playoff game since 2014.

According to coach Tim Lenahan, NU recently has been very strong defensively and is beginning to find its offensive pace. Additionally, the Cats haven’t given up a goal in the past four games.

“We were leaking goals there for a stretch,” Lenahan said. “The bounce back with four straight shutouts gives us a lot of confidence defensively. I’m always confident that we’re going to be able to make something happen. We have tremendous pace in the attack and I just think… we’re going to find a way to play.”

In NU’s early-season victory over the Terrapins, the team put together one of their best offensive performances of the season, with goals from sophomore midfielder Bardia Kimiavi, senior midfielder Matt Moderwell and senior forward Ty Seager. Lenahan said the win happened because the Cats “were at the top of our game.”

This weekend, NU will be facing a slightly different Maryland squad than the one they defeated. Sophomore forward Brayan Padilla, who scored the Terrapins’ lone goal in the Cats’ win, is out for the year with a torn Achilles. However, senior midfielder Eli Crognale, who came off the bench in the September match and is currently tied as Maryland’s point leader, will start for Maryland.

The other three teams on the Cats’ side of the bracket are No. 1 Indiana, No. 8 Ohio State and No. 9 Rutgers. If NU defeats the Terrapins, the squad will play the winner of the match between the Hoosiers and the winner of the Buckeyes or the Scarlet Knights.

In the regular season, the Cats lost to the Hoosiers 3-1, tied the Buckeyes 0-0 and defeated the Scarlet Knights 2-0.

The Cats will have to play their best this weekend, as Lenahan called the Big Ten the “toughest conference” in the country. Lenahan noted there is a lot of parity in the Big Ten, highlighting No. 7 seed Wisconsin, which only achieved a 1-4-3 conference record but was able to tie NU, No. 3 seed Michigan and Maryland.

“(Wisconsin) tells you how difficult this league is, that a team that is 3-10 can still get three draws against top teams,” Lenahan said. “I think that’s what really different with this league than most other leagues.”

According to Lenahan, the team watched film Thursday of the Terrapins. On Friday, the team plans to “scout” their opponent, before having a normal practice on Saturday.

Seager, after the team’s 7-0 win against Div. III Marian University, said the past three years of lackluster regular season records and early Big Ten tournament exits have been tough. But, NU has changed for the better this season, he said, and is ready for the Big Ten Tournament.

“We’ve got a great group and a really close-knit team and we’re just looking forward to a great run in the tournament and we’re really excited to get after it,” Seager said. “It’s been really awesome to turn things around for my senior year.”

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