Men’s Soccer: Northwestern falls short 1-0 to Wisconsin in impassioned Senior Day effort


Katie Chen/The Daily Northwestern

Graduate student midfielder Bardia Kimiavi dribbles the ball against Wisconsin. In his last home game at Martin Stadium, Kimiavi threatened the Badgers’ backline but was unable to help Northwestern find an equalizer in the Wildcats’ 1-0 loss on Sunday.

Alex Cervantes, Assistant Sports Editor

Surrounded by family and friends on a picturesque 70-degree day at Martin Stadium, Northwestern’s 12 seniors and graduate students gathered for a group photo Sunday ahead of their clash with Wisconsin.

“They’re all of the highest character,” coach Russell Payne said of his graduating upperclassmen. “They bleed purple. They’ve given tremendously over four, five years to this team. So we’re forever grateful to them.”

The matinee conference showdown was not only the Wildcats’ Senior Day, but also a match with significant postseason implications. 

Entering the game in the basement of the Big Ten standings, NU (2-8-5, 0-5-2 Big Ten) needed a victory to leapfrog the Badgers and Michigan to seventh place in the conference. But the Cats ultimately fell short 1-0 to the Badgers.

Payne’s squad was on the front foot in the game’s opening minutes, as freshman midfielder Jason Gajadhar and junior midfielder Joseph Arena combined for the first chance of the game. After Gajadhar stole the ball in the final third, he played a wonderfully weighted pass in between Badger defenders to Arena. The New Jersey native’s shot was parried away by the Wisconsin goalkeeper, but NU looked bright.

The match flipped on a dime, as a self-inflicted wound from the Cats just two minutes later blessed the Badgers with possession in great field positioning.

Senior defender Jayson Cyrus’ errant touch was stolen by Badger Jack Finnegan, who proceeded to whip a ball across the face of goal. Graduate student goalkeeper Christian Garner was positioned at the near post and could do little to block the pass, while sophomore defender Brandon Clagette was a step behind Wisconsin’s Maxwell Keenan. At the back post, Keenan tapped the ball in with the outside of his boot, securing a 1-0 advantage for the Badgers.

Payne subbed Cyrus out with 10 minutes remaining in the first half. As the Maryland native walked towards the bench, he and Payne spoke briefly along the touchline.

“He was pretty down and (I was) just trying to lift him up,” Payne said. “We rise together, we fall together. I told him it could’ve been anybody (and) it’s on all of us.” 

Senior midfielder Logan Weaver replaced Cyrus at left back in his first appearance of the season. Payne said Weaver has been sidelined with an ankle injury since May, and while the goal was to get him some minutes in last Wednesday’s match, the opportunity didn’t present itself.

Wisconsin carried the one-goal lead into halftime, but Payne expressed optimism at NU’s performance in the opening frame.

“In the first half we had some really good momentum,” Payne said. “We were connecting in some good areas. We got a lot of crosses into good spots and service into the box. I said at halftime, ‘They have more blocks than I’ve ever seen in a game this season.’”

Payne implored his squad to keep the same level of intensity and pressure in the opening minutes of the second half. He assured the Cats that if they were “a little bit more clinical and more composed,” they would find a goal or two.

But NU’s hopes for an equalizing goal never materialized. The Cats came out flat to kick off the second frame and took around 15 to 20 minutes to really get going, Payne said.

A flurry of attacking forays from NU in the game’s waning moments challenged the Badgers’ backline, but Wisconsin withstood the onslaught like a brick wall. Graduate student defender Ethan Dudley’s volley in the 73rd minute was the Cats’ closest attempt at an equalizer, but his effort slammed off the crossbar.

NU finished the second half with 12 shots, four of which forced saves, but was unable to level the score, falling 1-0 to the Badgers.

It’s officially do-or-die time for the Cats ahead of next Sunday’s matchup with Michigan State. A win against the Spartans and a Wolverines defeat secures a postseason berth; anything else and Payne’s second season in Evanston comes to a close.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @CervantesPAlex 

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