Men’s Soccer: Northwestern falls 1-0 in overtime to Indiana in Big Ten Tournament semifinals


Daily file photo by Gabe Bider

The Northwestern men’s soccer team applauds the fans following a game. NU lost in overtime to Indiana in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals.

Alex Cervantes, Reporter

Men’s Soccer

Just four minutes into overtime of the Big Ten Tournament semifinals, Northwestern sophomore forward Justin Weiss got the ball at midfield and was off to the races, with senior midfielder Richie Bennett about 20 yards to his right. 

The pair went stride for stride as the Wildcats made a 2-on-1 counterattack. 

Weiss played the ball just beyond Bennett, but the senior tracked it down and pushed forward. For a brief moment inside the Indiana 18-yard box, NU outnumbered the Hoosiers 4-3, giving the Wildcats an opportunity to capitalize and advance to the Big Ten Championship.  

But Bennett’s initial cross was pushed away by Indiana goalkeeper Roman Celentano. Though freshman midfielder Collin McCamy followed up the cross with a shot, Celentano shut him down as well. Junior midfielder Logan Weaver then had a go at the goal, but again it was saved by the outstretched Hoosier goalie. And in one last attempt, Weiss’ shot from about 10 yards was saved, leaving NU scoreless.

The fastbreak opportunity occurred within a span of 20 seconds, highlighting the Cats’ quick counterattack.

Each successive effort from Indiana’s two-time Big Ten Goalkeeper of the Year seemingly rejuvenated a tired Hoosier team. Just two minutes later, Indiana defender Joey Maher scored to end the match 1-0. 

With that goal, NU’s season came to a heartbreaking end. 

The team had clawed its way into the Big Ten Tournament and proceeded to beat then-No. 10 Maryland to appear in the semifinals for the first time since 2013. The group then took No. 17 Indiana the distance on Wednesday — in Bloomington, Indiana, no less. 

“In my four years, this was the first time I was able to get to semifinals,” Bennett said. “But I think more than anything, I was super proud of just the effort everyone is able to put in and really rally behind a common cause because that’s something we’ll never forget.”

The Cats sat deep in their defensive third throughout the game, oftentimes with all 10 outfield players behind the ball. Coach Russell Payne said the defensive approach had more to do with the team’s stamina, rather than Indiana’s prolific attack. 

“Our legs caught up with us,” Payne said. “We had to concede a little more territory in the second half through a formation that didn’t allow them to get behind us centrally.”

NU’s backline was tasked with controlling an Indiana attack that had scored 34 goals on the season before Wednesday’s match. The Hoosiers still managed to fire off 20 shots, putting eight on target and forcing graduate student goalkeeper Miha Miskovic to make seven saves. 

In contrast, the Cats managed to put only one shot on goal in the seven attempts outside of their overtime shot barrage. 

For Miskovic — the hero of the quarterfinal victory — Wednesday’s game was his last in an NU uniform. And while the clock struck midnight on the Cats’ Cinderella run, he is just happy he was able to suit up for one final season.

“Six months ago, I didn’t know if I was still gonna be here,” Miskovic said. “I can’t be more grateful for the opportunity to have had another year with this brotherhood.”

NU ends the season with a 6-9-3 record, going 3-5 in regular-season conference play. It’s not a record that jumps off the page, but the team’s end-of-season form leaves room for optimism. 

In his first year at the helm and with a semifinals run under his belt, Payne has laid the groundwork for future men’s soccer success both on and off the field in Evanston.

“Two of the values we talk about in this program are gratitude and humility,” Payne said. “So if we continue to make those values foundational pieces of our program, then every new player that comes into the program sees those things modeled by returning players. That’s the kind of culture that’s capable of creating championship-winning teams.”

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Twitter: @CervantesPAlex 

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