Nov. 9, 2007
EAST LANSING, Mich. -
No. 14 Northwestern created numerous quality scoring chances for itself during Friday morning's 2007 Big Ten Men's Soccer Championship semifinal contest against No. 18 Ohio State. However, Buckeye goalkeeper Casey Latchem came up big time and time again as the Buckeyes held off the Wildcats 1-0 to advance to Sunday's championship game.
The loss drops NU to 12-4-3 overall on the season and forces the Wildcats to see if they receive an at-large berth into the NCAA tournament. Ohio State (13-3-4) moves on to face the winner of Friday's second semifinal game between Indiana and host Michigan State.
The victory by the Buckeyes avenges a 4-0 regular-season loss to Northwestern in Columbus Sept. 23.
"It's unfortunate that we were not able to get a goal," said Northwestern head coach Tim Lenahan. "I think we threw everything at them the last 15 minutes."
The teams spent the majority of the first half feeling out one another, with the best chance for either team coming in the final seconds of play. NU midfielder Carl Pett nearly took advantage of an Ohio State miscue as he slipped in behind the last line of defense and fired a shot alone on Latchem, but the Buckeyes keeper made the crucial save to keep the game scoreless heading into the intermission.
The Wildcats' next good opportunity came three minutes into the second half when Pett intercepted an OSU throw-in near the midfield, dribbled into the box and threaded a perfect feed through to Tyler Voigt. But Voigt's shot at the far post inched just wide.
The Buckeyes finally cashed in at 53:04 as Andrew Magill back-footed a pass in the box that deflected off of Northwestern Matt Witt and went straight to Big Ten Player of the Year Xavier Balc who found himself all alone for a goal from eight yards out.
NU put the pressure on Ohio State throughout the remainder of the match, but was unable to put away its chances, thanks in large part to Latchem.
With 30 minutes to go, Mark Blades sent a perfect header on goal off a corner kick, but Latchem was able to reach out and make a diving one-handed save to deny the tying score. Pett had another great chance with just under 15 minutes to go when he was all alone, but Latchem made another diving save to his left to help the Buckeyes hold the advantage.
Northwestern's final great opportunity came with 13 minutes remaining when Matt Eliason fired a blast from 25 yards that deflected off a defender on it's way to the goal and banged off the crossbar.
The Wildcats finished with a 17-13 advantage in shots, including a 6-4 edge in shots on goal. Latchem made six saves to earn the win, while Justin Pines made three saves for NU.
"I'm proud of our effort," Lenahan said. "We'll have more game to play this year and hopefully we'll play a couple at home as well. It's a little disappointing right now, but we'll probably be happy a week from Monday when the NCAA selections come out."
The NCAA tournament field will be announced Monday, Nov. 19 between 4:30-5 p.m. Central time on ESPNews.