Men’s Soccer: Miskovic stars, Northwestern stuns Maryland in penalty shootout at Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals


Kelsey Carroll/Daily Senior Staffer

The Northwestern men’s soccer team huddles together on the field. NU beat Maryland 3-2 on penalties in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament.

Alex Cervantes, Reporter

Men’s Soccer

Nearly a month ago, Northwestern lost to Maryland 3-1 in College Park. But the postseason is a fresh start, and the Wildcats took that mindset to heart on Sunday, stunning the No. 2 Terrapins in a penalty shootout in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Tournament. 

The game was dominated by stout defenses and excellent goalkeeping, ending 0-0 after two 45-minute periods and a pair of 10-minute overtime periods. No one shined on the pitch more than graduate student goalkeeper Miha Miskovic. He made 10 saves in the match against Maryland, with each successive save better than the last.

When Maryland pushed numbers into the final third, it was the NU goalie who kept them at bay in the second period, making six crucial saves. When a penalty was awarded to the Terrapins in the 80th minute, it was Miskovic who leapt to his right and palmed Terrapin forward Jacen Russell-Rowe’s effort away. Just minutes later, the Serbia native made two consecutive stops to stifle Maryland.

The Terrapins had their share of opportunities to put the game away and had not come away with a score, so when it came to the shootout, Miskovic was confident.

“I felt the goal was super small,” Miskovic said. “They were nervous. They thought the game was gonna be over in regulation, and I just knew we got it.”

The two teams traded makes and misses in the shootout, but Miskovic’s second save, which came on Maryland’s fourth penalty, kept the score level at 2-2. Sophomore midfielder Rom Brown was then tasked with the all-important fifth penalty: convert and the pressure is on the Terrapins to score; miss and NU’s No. 1 would have to come up with another save.

Brown had stymied the Maryland attack all night, making numerous full stretch tackles and interceptions. He was a part of the group that blanketed Terrapin midfielder Ben Bender, the Big Ten’s points leader. Brown played all 110 minutes for the Cats, so when he stepped up to the spot for the team’s fifth penalty, he wasn’t worried about the spotlight.

“I took the PK imagining how I’m going to hit the corner so that the keeper doesn’t have any chance,” Brown said. “And when it went in, I was very happy.”

With Brown putting NU ahead 3-2, the pressure turned to Maryland forward Brayan Padilla. Padilla’s approach sent Miskovic the wrong way, but he pushed the penalty just wide, hitting the post. The missed shot sealed the upset win for the visiting Cats.

The victory is NU’s first against the Terrapins since September 2019. It also marks coach Russell Payne’s first win against his mentor and former coach Sasho Cirovski. 

But Payne — who is in his first year at the helm — said this game is not about him. Instead, he pointed to his team’s complete effort in what is a marquee victory against Maryland.

“This one is about a group of guys who just believed that they could beat anybody,” Payne said. “And it took them 110 minutes and penalty kicks to get to the point where they tipped the scales in their favor and that’s what it’s all about.”

Up next, the Cats will face No. 3 seed Indiana in Bloomington, Ind. on Wednesday in the semifinals. The Hoosiers beat NU 2-1 in a September contest at Martin Stadium. 

The Cats’ backline will be tested once again by a prolific offense — the Indiana attack has netted 33 goals this season. And while Miskovic and the rest of the team will celebrate Sunday’s victory, all eyes will soon turn to the Hoosiers.

“We’re definitely excited,” Miskovic said. “This is another team we played in the regular season and we were up and let the lead slip away from us, but now there’s a chance to get it back.”

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Twitter: @CervantesPAlex 

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