Men’s Soccer: Northwestern prepares for semifinal battle against Indiana in Big Ten Tournament


Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman

Northwestern graduate student defender Spencer Farina heads a ball against Indiana. NU will face the Hoosiers in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament.

Alex Cervantes, Reporter

Coming off a thrilling penalty shootout win against Maryland, Northwestern is preparing for a battle against Indiana in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals. 

“This group hasn’t made the semifinals in some years,” graduate student goalkeeper Miha Miskovic said. “It’s a very exciting time for us.”

The Wildcats (6-8-3, 3-5 Big Ten) haven’t appeared in the Big Ten semifinals since 2013, and Miskovic is the main reason they’re returning. He starred in Sunday’s match against the Terrapins, making 10 saves, including three crucial penalty saves. NU held a prolific Maryland offense scoreless, despite the Terrapins taking 20 shots and putting half on goal. 

NU faced the Hoosiers earlier this season, falling at Martin Stadium 2-1, even though the Cats jumped out to an early lead. Since that match, NU has changed formations from a 4-4-2 to a 3-5-2. The shift has provided the squad with more support in the attack and more defensive coverage — the Cats have conceded just three goals in the past four matches.

The Indiana attack will test the Cats’ backline, including Miskovic and Farina, for all 90 minutes. The Hoosiers only put three of their seven shots on goal in the September match, but they average 12.3 shots and 1.83 goals per game. In contrast, NU averages just 7.8 shots and 1.13 goals per game.

Despite the numbers, the Cats’ offense looked threatening in the match against Maryland. NU put 75% of its shots on target. None, however, found the back of the net.

Sophomore forward Justin Weiss, an All-Big Ten first team member, leads the team in scoring with eight goals, but only managed one shot on goal in 100 minutes of action. He and junior midfielder Vicente Castro will need to be threatening early and often against the Hoosiers to have success. 

Still, this Indiana team is elite in both the final and defensive thirds. The Hoosiers have scored a conference-leading 33 goals, led by forwards Victor Bezerra and Samuel Sarver. The Indiana backline, headlined by Big Ten Goalkeeper of the Year Roman Celentano and Defensive Player of the Year Daniel Munie, has conceded just 13 goals.

NU will be the road team heading into Wednesday’s match in Bloomington, Ind., but don’t tell graduate student defender Spencer Farina of the Cats’ underdog status.

“‘Underdog’ is a term that’s the function of results in the past,” Farina said. “We don’t care about that in the postseason. Everybody’s 0-0. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing the No. 1 team in the country or the No. 125 team in the country. Whoever wins on that day goes on, it doesn’t matter who the underdog is.”

The Hoosiers are ranked 17th nationally in the latest United Soccer Coaches poll. But like Farina said, rankings don’t matter in the postseason. Anything can happen.

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