March 26, 2009
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EVANSTON, Ill. -
Northwestern's men's soccer team recently gathered to celebrate its record-setting 2008 season and distribute its annual team awards. The Wildcats finished the campaign with a 15-5-3 overall record and reached the NCAA quarterfinals for the second time in three years.
Sophomore Matt Eliason was recognized as the team's Offensive MVP after leading the team with 12 goals--four times as many as any other Wildcat player--and 25 points. He posted NU's first hat trick in 11 years in a Sept. 12 win over Eastern Illinois and was named a first-team All-Big Ten selection and a second-team All-Great Lakes Region pick. Top Drawer Soccer named Eliason a second-team All-American.
Senior Drew Ratner and redshirt junior Misha Rosenthal were co-recipients of the team's Defensive MVP award. It was the third straight such honor for Ratner who helped organize a unit that a school single-season record with 13 shutouts, including seven consecutive during one stretch. An ESPN the Magazine Second-Team Academic All-American, both of his goals in 2008 were game-winners. Rosenthal notched all 13 of the team's shutouts in between the pipes and became Northwestern's career leader in the category in the process with 23. His 0.48 goals-against average was the fourth-best mark in the nation while his save percentage of .851 ranked 13th. Both Ratner and Rosenthal were recognized as second-team All-Big Ten picks.
The Leadership Award was bestowed upon senior Brian Usinger. A key figure in the Wildcats' defensive midfield, he also contributed on the offensive end, ranking second on the team with three goals, five assists and 11 points. All three of the goals came in consecutive games, including game winners against Northern Illinois and Loyola of Chicago. He also performed well on the big stage as he buried the decisive penalty kick against Loyola and assisted on both scores in a comeback win over Notre Dame in the NCAA tournament.
Junior defender Mark Blades was honored as the winner of the Coaches' Award. A steady and consistent presence on the field, he was named Northwestern's second All-American in school history by virtue of his third-team selection by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA). Blades was also a first-team All-Great Lakes Region pick and a second-team All-Big Ten honoree. He tied for second on the team with three goals, including a game-winner against Xavier.
Redshirt sophomore Drew Pavlovich was the recipient of the squad's Academic Award. He played in 11 matches in 2008, earned his second consecutive Academic All-Big Ten distinction and possesses the highest grade-point average on the team.
The Peg Lenahan Spirit of the Game Award was given to redshirt junior Carl Pett. The award is named in honor of Northwestern head coach Tim Lenahan's mother who passed away in 2003. The Lenahan family donates $1,000 to the program in her honor. Pett started 19 of the 21 matches he appeared in during the 2008 season, recording two goals and two assists as a midfielder. He also excelled in the classroom, being named an ESPN the Magazine Second-Team Academic All-American.
Sophomore Jack Hillgard earned the 12th Man Award. Given annually to the player off the bench who contributes the most in practice and off the bench, the honor was bestowed upon Hillgard for his play on the defensive end. He also played a crucial role on the offensive end in the postseason as he converted on a PK against Loyola of Chicago and assisted on the match's lone goal in a victory over Akron in the NCAA tourney.
The Most Improved Player Award was given to sophomore Cody Stanley. After appearing in just five matches as a freshman, Stanley started all 23 on the defensive end in 2008. He played a key role in Northwestern's record-setting defense which led the Big Ten and ranked sixth nationally with a 0.55 goals-against average and surrendered a mere 13 goals all season.
Last, but certainly not least, the Northwestern men's soccer program recognized Russell Witek as the recipient of the Team Inspiration Award. Russell was connected with the Wildcats through the Friends of Jaclyn program. He became an inspiration to the team in its run to the NCAA tournament, attending numerous games both at Lakeside Field and on the road. His presence played a critical role in NU's tremendous season.