Sept. 1, 2009
Northwestern Game Notes vs. Green Bay (PDF)
EVANSTON, Ill. -
Northwestern, ranked No. 9 by the NSCAA and College Soccer News in their respective preseason polls, opens up the 2009 season Tuesday, Sept. 1 as it travels to the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. The Wildcats have won their last five season-openers, including a 1-0 home win last season over San Francisco.
A complete season preview of the Wildcats can be found here.
Scouting Green Bay
The Phoenix is coming off a 6-7-5 overall season in 2008, including a 4-2-2 mark in Horizon League play. Green Bay has been tabbed for a fifth-place conference finish this season. Junior midfielder JC Banks is the team's leading returning scoring, posting four goals and nine points a year ago. The team must replace starting goalkeeper Adam Stikl who has exhausted his eligibility. Tom Poitras has a 164-96-34 record in 15 overall seasons as a head coach, including the last five at Green Bay.
Northwestern leads the all-time series with Green Bay 7-6-2. The teams last met Nov. 3, 2007 in the regular-season finale as they tied 1-1 at Lakeside Field. Head coach Tim Lenahan is 3-1-1 during his Wildcat career against the Phoenix.
Blades Rakes in Preseason Honors
Senior defender Mark Blades, considered one of the top left back players in the country, has earned preseason recognition from a variety of organizations. He was named a preseason second-team All-American by College Soccer News and is one of 38 players nationally named to the Hermann Trophy Watch List. The Hermann Trophy is awarded annually to the nation's top collegiate soccer player. Blades has also been recognized for his efforts both on and off the field by being named one of 30 candidates for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award. To be eligible for the award, a student-athlete must be classified as an NCAA Division I senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence--classroom, character, community and competition. A second-team All-Big Ten pick, a first-team NSCAA All-Great Lakes Region selection and a third-team NSCAA All-American a year ago, Blades helped anchor a Northwestern defense that posted a 0.55 goals-against average and 13 shutouts in 2008. He also chipped in offensively with three goals.
Strong Nucleus Returns
Northwestern welcomes back six starters and 15 letterwinners from its squad which posted a 15-5-3 overall record and a 3-3-0 mark in Big Ten play a year ago. The team achieved its highest national ranking ever when it peaked at No. 2 in the NSCAA poll. The Wildcats advanced to the Elite Eight round of the 2008 NCAA Tournament before falling 1-0 to eventual national runner-up North Carolina. In addition to Blades, NU returns two other award winners from last season. Junior forward Matt Eliason was named to the All-Big Ten first team and the All-Great Lakes Region second team after leading the team with 12 goals and 25 points in 2008. Senior goalkeeper Misha Rosenthal returns after being a named a second-team All-Big Ten honoree for the second consecutive year.
More on Rosenthal
Misha Rosenthal enters his senior season having already established himself as the top goalkeeper in Northwestern history. A two-time second-team All-Big Ten pick, he ranks first in school history with 23 shutouts, including a school-record 13 a year ago. Seven of the shutouts came consecutively over one early-season stretch during which NU held its opponents scoreless over an amazing span of 805 minutes and 30 seconds of action. Rosenthal finished the 2008 campaign ranked fourth in the country with a 0.48 goals-against average and 13th with a .851 save percentage.
Head Coach Tim Lenahan
Tim Lenahan is in his ninth season at the helm at Northwestern as the architect of a program that has undergone a metamorphosis from an also-ran to a national power. He inherited a program that had won a total of four Big Ten matches in the 10 years prior to his arrival and turned it into one that has reached the NCAA tournament in four of the last five seasons. The team has advanced to the NCAA quarterfinal round two of the last three years. Lenahan has an 81-63-19 record at Northwestern and is 207-131-37 mark in 19 seasons overall as a head coach. A 1983 graduate of Richard Stockton College, Lenahan coached for eight seasons at his alma mater and for three more at Lafayette before coming to Evanston.
Wildcats Picked Second in Big Ten Preseason Poll
For the second consecutive year, Northwestern was tabbed to finish second in this season's Big Ten preseason poll of the conference's head coaches. Indiana was selected as the favorite to win the league title. The Wildcats return six starters and 15 letterwinners from last year's squad which went 15-5-3 overall and 3-3-0 in Big Ten play, good for third place. Indiana last captured the Big Ten regular season title in 2007 and has won a conference-record 12 Big Ten crowns overall. NU is ranked one spot ahead of defending conference champion Michigan State. Ohio State follows in fourth, while Penn State and Wisconsin are tied for fifth. Michigan comes in seventh.
Going Four It
This year's senior class has the opportunity to accomplish something no other class in school history has done--reach the NCAA tournament each year of their collegiate careers. All four of Northwestern's NCAA tournament appearances have come in the last five seasons (2004, 2006, 2007, 2008). The class of 2008 left as the winningest class in program history, posting 50 victories. This year's group enters its final campaign with 41 wins, nine shy of the top mark.
Nassif Joins Coaching Staff
Rich Nassif, a 2007 Northwestern University graduate, has joined head coach Tim Lenahan's staff as an assistant coach this season. Nassif spent the last two years as the team's director of operations. He has made an impressive climb to his current position in a relatively short period of time. Nassif became a member of the NU soccer team when an injury left the squad with only one healthy goalkeeper. Jeff Mills, a former high school teammate of Nassif's, recommended that the coaching staff contact him to fill the void. Already admitted to Northwestern and planning to attend a few weeks later, Nassif joined the Wildcats late in the preseason. While receiving limited playing time in his four years, he was an instrumental part of the team and was named captain prior to his senior season.
Northwestern opens its 2009 home season next Monday afternoon with a Labor Day matchup against local rival DePaul. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. at Lakeside Field.