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: What to Watch For: No. 21 Northwestern looks to reclaim sole possession of first place in Big Ten standings against No. 20 Michigan State

Daily file photo by Delilah Brumer
Junior midfielder Colin McCamy dribbles downfield against Green Bay. McCamy has tallied two goals and four assists this season.

Following the program’s second-half stumble from its unbeaten ranks at Penn State last week, No. 21 Northwestern will return to the comfort of Martin Stadium for the first of a two-match homestand in a Friday night game against No. 20 Michigan State.

The Wildcats (9-1-3, 3-1-1 Big Ten) sit tied atop the conference standings with the Spartans (6-0-6, 2-0-4 Big Ten), along with Penn State and Rutgers. But NU holds at least a game in hand over each squad. A victory would give the ‘Cats sole possession of first place in the Big Ten.

With just three regular season games left, every matchup poses major postseason implications for the Big Ten Tournament and beyond. 

Here’s three storylines to watch for as NU looks for a bounceback home victory over Michigan State.

1. Jackson Weyman looks to extend purple patch

Although the ‘Cats fell 2-1 in University Park last Friday, graduate student goalkeeper Jackson Weyman delivered a standout performance in between the sticks. The Evanston native recorded six saves, keeping NU within striking distance throughout the game.

While Weyman posted a 1.14 goals allowed per game average and had one clean sheet in his first seven starts, the former South Florida and Marquette keeper soared to new heights in late September, silencing a hostile Ludwig Field crowd with seven saves and a clean sheet against Maryland.

Ever since that statement game, Weyman’s pristine form has seldom dipped. He hardly surrendered a sniff at goal in a 2-0 shutout versus Rutgers –– his third of the season.

The ‘Cats will need their standout shot stopper to stymie another talented attack as the Spartans boast two of the conference’s top 10 scorers in forward Jonathan Stout and midfielder Sean Kerrigan. Both will look to find gaps and link up with defender Jeremy Sharp in the attacking third.

2. Justin Weiss and company face Big Ten’s premier goalkeeper

Through 13 games, senior forward Justin Weiss’ scoring ability has been paralleled by no one in the conference. While injuries slowed his second stint in Evanston last fall, the senior is back with a vengeance, tallying seven goals and seven assists for a Big Ten-best 21 points.

However, Weiss and his strike partner, graduate student forward Ugo Achara Jr., will be put to the test this Friday against one of the conference’s top goaltenders.

Michigan State goalkeeper Zac Kelly has conceded just nine goals in 12 games this season, collecting five clean sheets and 45 saves in that span. In his first season as the Spartans’ starter, Kelly leads the Big Ten in both save percentage and saves, stopping shots at a .839 clip.

For NU to knock off its ranked opponent, coach Russell Payne’s group will look to play through its senior captain and capitalize off chances on a consistent goalkeeper.

3. The ‘Cats attempt to maintain unbeaten home record 

Eight opponents have charged into Evanston yearning to knock off NU on its home turf, but none left with the spoils of victory. The ‘Cats have amassed a 7-0-1 home resume this season, merely dropping points in a 0-0 draw against Green Bay.

The team’s home dominance marks a significant turnaround from its 2022 campaign, when NU won just one of its nine matches at Martin Stadium. With much of the same supporting cast donning the purple and white this year, Payne’s ‘Cats have found something special off the Lake Michigan shoreline.

Facing Indiana in a second consecutive home game next Tuesday, NU looks to grab a momentum spurring victory on Friday before its final regular season home tilt.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @jakeepste1n

Related Stories:

Men’s Soccer: No. 12 Northwestern suffers first defeat of season, falls to Penn State 2-1

Men’s Soccer: Van Deventer leads No. 12 Northwestern in 2-0 win against Rutgers

Men’s Soccer: No. 12 Northwestern lacks urgency in 0-0 draw with Green Bay

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