Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Men’s Soccer: Weiss’ late-game heroics lift Northwestern to 2-1 win over St. Thomas in season opener

Eugenia Cao
Northwestern men’s soccer won against St. Thomas 2-1 Thursday

Northwestern men’s soccer senior forward Justin Weiss scored a left-footed volley in the 89th minute to give the Wildcats a 2-1 win over visiting St. Thomas Thursday. The goal was  a dramatic way to earn the program’s first season-opening victory since 2018. 

The late-afternoon game was moved inside to Ryan Fieldhouse due to extreme, high temperatures affecting the Midwest.

The winner came off NU’s final corner kick of the game. Taken by junior defender Ibrahim Obeid, the kick was sent long off the back post and headed in the air back across the box by freshman midfielder Peter Riesz into a crowd of six players. It ricocheted off the shoulder of sophomore defender Nigel Prince and floated perfectly for Weiss standing unmarked in front of the goal. The skipper took it out of the air to send the Wildcats home with a gritty win.

NU did not look particularly menacing on offense, failing to create any quality scoring chances in the first half. But, head coach Russell Payne said he was pleased with the tenacity his young team showed in their first game of the official season.

“This game was exactly like our preseason games in regards to just keep fighting through the last whistle,” Payne said.“I told the guys we’ve got plenty of time to analyze how we played, but we found a way to win the game. That’s the most important thing in a short college season.”.

The Wildcats opened the scoring in the 46th minute –– thanks to a gift from Tommies’ left back Isaac Eckroth. The graduate student defender tried to dribble out of the back instead of clearing the ball, and ran directly into waiting Northwestern sophomore forward Christopher Thaggard. The latter stole the ball, leaving Eckroth behind him and only St. Thomas freshman goalkeeper Moritz Krenc in front. Thaggard calmly rifled the ball over Krenc’s right shoulder to give NU the lead.

St. Thomas equalized roughly ten minutes later off a corner kick bounce of their own. Two shanked clearances by the Wildcats saw the ball fall to Tommies sophomore midfielder Oliver Bieleveldt who guided it with his right foot under the outstretched left hand of Northwestern graduate student goalkeeper Jackson Weyman.

The Wildcats, however, did not shrink after giving up the lead. For an NU team that finished second to last in the Big Ten and suffered a first round loss in the 2022 conference tournament, tasting a win immediately seemed to set a more optimistic tone for the 2023 season. Weiss, who is beginning his third season playing under Payne and experienced his first season-opening victory Thursday, expressed confidence in the team’s trajectory.

“We know this program hasn’t had the best history, but history is in the past, we’re moving forward with it now,” Weiss said. “I’d just like to speak on behalf of the guys, we all just want to win, we don’t care who scores or who does it. We’re a brotherhood and you can see that in the way we play on the field.”

This is a Wildcats team that started five underclassmen Thursday, but collectively showed they can play a major part for NU moving forward. Freshman defender Owen Noverr stood out, making a sliding challenge in each half to thwart the run of play and was solid overall throughout the match. 

Sophomore midfielder Jayvin Van Deventer was dynamic on the right-wing and linked up nicely with forwards Weiss and Thaggard. Payne said he is “pleased” with how his younger starters have developed and is encouraged by the composure they displayed against St. Thomas.

“We’ve brought in two really strong [recruiting] classes over the last two years, but it takes time. Those kids don’t just come in ready to go, and it takes them time to adapt to this level,” Payne said. “Today it was really important that we just found a way to be successful…but I think you can see some maturity happening.” 

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Twitter: @colincapece

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