Nov. 21, 2013
EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern saw its season come to an end Thursday in a tough 3-2 overtime loss to Bradley in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
The Wildcats (10-8-3) came back to tie the game twice to eventually force overtime before seeing the Braves (14-6-2) escape with a victory.
"It was a great college soccer game, just a great college soccer game, lots of action, lots of opportunities, great goal keeping, great defending, great goals," head coach Tim Lenahan said. "Obviously Bradley played very well. They're a tough team to play, a grizzled group that's been through a lot over the years and they certainly earned their victory tonight, great third goal by their big guy up top (Wojciech Wojcik), who gave us problems all night."
There was plenty of offense in the first half as Bradley got on the board first with a goal scored by Scott Davis in the sixth minute. Northwestern responded about five minutes later with the equalizer as Nikko Boxall recorded his second goal of the season. Cole Missimo brought the ball up from the midfield and sent a cross to Boxall as he sent one in from inside the 6-yard box.
Northwestern had two more looks shortly after the goal as Boxall's shot in the 12th minute was blocked by the Bradley defense and Lepe Seetane had another look that sailed just wide of the right post. That was one of three looks in the first half for Seetane.
Bradley earned the first corner kick of the match in the 26th minute and converted with a goal to take the 2-1 lead. Andrew Brown took the corner and found Wojciech Wojcik who headed one in past NU goalkeeper Tyler Miller.
The Wildcats had two more looks to close the first half, one from Chris Ritter that went wide and another from Seetane that went high. Bradley took the 2-1 lead into the break with the 7-6 advantage in shots and 2-1 clip in shots on goal.
Seetane started the second half right where he left off as he had the first chance of the frame in the 47th minute. With the ball loose in the box, Seetane took advantage and fired a look to the far post but a Bradley defender saved it off the line, which was the first save of the match for either team.
Bradley came back on the other end with two looks that were blocked and another that went wide. NU then had two looks, a header by Ritter and another shot by Joey Calistri, both of which were saved by Bradley keeper Brian Billings.
Miller then was tested by the Bradley offense but made three saves in a short span of time to keep Bradley from gaining further separation. The Wildcats continued to stay aggressive on offense and their efforts paid off with about 12 minutes remaining as Grant Wilson scored the equalizer.
A Bradley foul set up a Northwestern free kick about 30 yards out just left of midfield. Ritter took the kick, sending a shot towards the net, which was saved by Billings, but he mishandled the ball leaving it loose in the box and Wilson was there to knock it in for his third goal of the year.
Both teams had good looks at the net to end regulation, including one by Bradley from inside the box that was blocked and NU's Nathan Dearth had a header off a corner kick with under two minutes to play, but neither team was able to convert, sending the game to overtime.
With the score tied 2-2, both teams were an even 17-17 on shots in regulation, but NU had the slight 7-5 edge in shots on goal.
The Wildcats had a great chance at the start of overtime as Calistri was fouled just outside the 18-yard box. Chris Ritter took the free kick, but a Bradley defender blocked the shot with his head, giving the Braves possession. On the other end, Bradley's Scott Davis had two shots, one that hit the right post and another that was blocked. The Braves then scored the golden goal off a header by Wojciech Wojcik with just 3:13 left in the first overtime to give them the 3-2 victory.
"I'm proud of the way this group stuck with it. We never quit in spite of all the things we had go wrong this year, in terms of injuries. So even when all the bad things that happen and you're still an NCAA Tournament team, that says a lot for our program," Lenahan said. "Our seniors, especially Chris Ritter, his fifth year here, I know we had a higher vision of playing more games than just one, and I'm sorry for Chris that we didn't get a chance to play a few more games.
"But somewhere down the line here, we're going to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, and I'm going to make sure to thank Chris Ritter when that happens, leaves here as one of the best players in the history of this program."
Bradley finished with the 21-18 advantage on shots but both teams were an even 7-7 in shots on goal. Ritter and Seetane, who both were playing their final matches at Lakeside Field, led NU with five and four shots, respectively. Miller wrapped up the night with four saves.
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