Men’s Soccer: Wildcats spoil Spartans’ senior day, supplant Michigan for a spot in Big Ten Tournament


Katie Chen/The Daily Northwestern

Freshman defender Nigel Prince works the ball out of the back. The Atlanta United youth product put on a defensive clinic for all 90 minutes against the Spartans.

Jake Epstein, Reporter

Northwestern entered DeMartin Stadium Sunday needing a win over Michigan State (6-8-2, 3-4-1 Big Ten) to extend its season. The Wildcats got what they wanted, spoiling the Spartans’ senior day with a 2-1 win.

Going into the game, the Cats weren’t in control of their own destiny. Sitting ninth in the Big Ten standings, NU needed help from Penn State (6-5-4, 3-2-3 Big Ten), who was matched up against Michigan (4-10-3, 1-6-1 Big Ten). A Nittany Lions victory combined with a NU win would clinch the Cats the eighth and final seed in the Big Ten Tournament.

The match didn’t start off on the right foot for the Cats. Freshman midfielder Jason Gajadhar’s clearance off a Spartan corner would find its way to Louis Sala, who whipped in a cross that was headed home by freshman phenom Jonathan Stout. The goal gave MSU a 1-0 lead in the first 10 minutes.

Just one minute later, the Spartans nearly built on their lead, firing a shot that beat graduate student goalkeeper Christian Garner. Spartan defender Will Perkins celebrated as if he’d scored and play stopped for a video review. The referee ruled that the whole ball did not cross the goal line, and play resumed with a 1-0 MSU lead.

After staring down a potential 2-0 deficit, NU seemed in control of the matchup’s momentum. Soon, senior captain Logan Weaver took matters into his own hands. He beat several MSU defenders to tally a shot, which was deflected to freshman midfielder Jayvin Van Deventer. The Missouri native then found the back of the net for his first collegiate goal, tying the game at one apiece.

From there, the match transitioned into a gritty end-to-end battle, with several Garner saves out of the top drawer, and freshman defender Nigel Prince making many key defensive stops. Both sides pushed the tempo of the game, searching for a winner.

The momentum shifted as senior midfielder Alex Gordon slotted through graduate student defender Ethan Dudley, who was then taken down in the box. After some delay, the referee signaled for a penalty kick, and Dudley calmly stepped up and slotted away the 81st minute winner.

The Cats (3-8-5, 1-5-2 Big Ten) received confirmation of their tournament berth minutes after the final whistle. The Nittany Lions held on for a 3-2 win, helping NU book its ticket to the tournament. Eighth-seeded NU will travel to College Park for a matchup with a familiar foe: top-seeded No.8 Maryland (9-2-5,4-0-4 Big Ten). Coach Russell Payne and the squad look to upset his alma mater in the Big Ten Tournament for the second consecutive season. 

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @jakeepste1n

Related Stories:

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

Men’s Soccer: Northwestern battles back, draws Wisconsin-Milwaukee 1-1

Men’s Soccer: Northwestern concedes late penalty against No. 15 Ohio State, falls 2-1 on the road