With graduation looming on Friday, that significant academic achievement for men's soccer seniors Jonathan Harris, Oliver Kupe, Christian Ludtke, Peter O'Neill and John Rogers not only marks the end of the school year, but also the official close to the 2011-12 athletic year.
Before we turn the page to the 2012-13 season, let's take one last trip down memory lane because let's be honest, there was a lot to celebrate in 2011 for the Northwestern men's soccer team.
We all know how the season ended-- with this and this or as soccer folks like to refer to it as "the double." Before Northwestern won its first Big Ten titles in school history though, there was a journey and it began after the worst loss of the season.
After falling 4-0 at DePaul and posting a 3-4-2 record through the first nine games, Northwestern was at a crossroads and in need of some direction. There were two paths the team could take; ride out the rest of the season with the status quo or shift gears.
Head coach Tim Lenahan left the decision of which way to go up to his senior leaders. In the week of practice before Missouri State came to town, the game immediately after the DePaul match, Lenahan physically handed over his keys to senior co-captain Peter O'Neill and told the team "It's your car, it's time for you guys to start driving."
And drive they did. Northwestern came out with a 2-0 win over Missouri State and did not lose again for 46 days. During that 46-day stretch, the Wildcats were unbeaten in 11 matches, including three ties with top-15 teams, won four Big Ten matches and capped off the season with the elusive double.
The 2011 season was a complete team effort but these seniors that graduate Friday provided key leadership during the historical season. Oliver Kupe will always be remembered for his late-game heroics (match-tying goals against No. 12 Notre Dame, No. 10 Indiana and the game-winning goal in the BTT final vs. Penn State, just to name a few) and Peter O'Neill was NU's ironman, starting all 21 matches in 2011, and was the vocal leader guiding the team to two championships.
Jonathan Harris, Christian Ludtke and John Rogers may not have had as much time on the field in 2011 but each still played a significant role. Harris always stayed positive throughout the season, and even though he's a goalkeeper, can say that he scored a goal in his college career as he played the field during one game. Ludtke kept the team entertained with his impersonations of assistant coach Neil Jones and during practice before the NCAA tournament, did his best to try and rattle freshman goalkeeper Tyler Miller by trash talking him from behind the net. Like Harris, Rogers also provided a consistent positive attitude and was a key contributor on the practice squad.
As 2011-12 officially comes to a close (and Northwestern looks to repeat the same success in 2012-13), we say thank you one last time to the seniors and wish them the best of luck as they enter the next stage of their lives!
...And case you want to re-live the 2011 season, we have you covered with some of our favorite photos from the season as well as video highlights and photos from the Big Ten Tournament.