Sept. 14, 2006
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Sunday, Sept. 17, 3 p.m. CT
Northwestern (5-1) vs. Ohio State (2-3-2)
Thomas Athletic Complex
EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern (5-1) will ride the momentum of its three-game win streak into conference play when the Wildcats open up the Big Ten portion of the schedule at home against Ohio State (2-3-2) at 3 p.m. CT Sunday, Sept. 17. The Wildcats captured the championship of the adidas/Baymont Inn Invitational last weekend with wins over Bradley (2-0) and Drake (2-1). The Buckeyes have played four top 25 teams in their last five games, which included a 1-0 loss to No. 1 North Carolina.
Quoting Coach Lenahan
"Sunday should be a great day for soccer at Northwestern. All the students are finally back on campus and a great Big Ten match-up is a great way to kick off the academic year. Ohio State is an outstanding team and very well coached. They play one of the toughest non-conference schedules each year which really gets them ready for Big Ten play and have been to the NCAA Tournament each of the last two seasons. It should a great atmosphere."
About Ohio State
Don't let their record fool you. Despite its 2-3-2 mark, Ohio State has played some of the toughest teams in the country through the first month, taking on four top 25 teams, including then No. 1-ranked North Carolina back on Sept. 1, a 1-0 UNC victory in Chapel Hill, N.C. Two days later, the Buckeyes dropped a 3-2 overtime decision to No. 11 Wake Forest. They then dropped another nail-biter to No. 23 Boston University before battling No. 13 San Francisco to 1-1 tie last Sunday. Offense has been hard to come by for the Buckeyes this season who are led by Xavier Balc's three goals and one assist. Four other Buckeyes also have one goal each on the season. Casey Latchem, who leads the Big Ten in saves, has played every minute in goal with 31 saves, three shutouts while allowing just six goals. Ohio State is coached by John Bluem who is in his 10th season in Columbus. He has led the Buckeyes to consecutive NCAA appearances, including a Big Ten championship in 2004.
Noting the WildcatsThe Wildcats are ranked No. 26 in two national polls this week--the NSCAA/adidas Top 25 and the College Soccer News Top 30 poll. Northwestern is ranked fourth in the latest NSCAA Great Lakes Region poll behind Indiana, Notre Dame and UIC--all ranked teams.
This bunch likes saving their best for last. Through six games, the Wildcats have either been behind or tied at the half, only to come away victorious on five of those six occasions. Nine goals have been scored by Northwestern this year, with eight of those coming in the second half. They are 3-0 when tied at the half and 2-1 when trailing.
As expected, the Wildcats are among the league leaders in several statistical categories. The Wildcats are second in the Big Ten in total points (28), assists per game (1.67) and saves per game (4.67) and third in goals per game (1.50) and fewest goals allowed per game (0.83). Individually, David Roth is tied for first in points (10), points per game (1.67) and second in goals (4), goals per game (0.67) and game-winning goals (2). Will Briley is second in the league with 21 saves and tied for second with two shutouts.
Ohio State leads the all-time series with Northwestern 16-2-2.
The Wildcats picked up two wins over the weekend and claimed the championship of the adidas/Baymont Inn Invitational hosted by Northern Illinois. On Friday, David Roth scored two both Northwestern goals as the Wildcats bested the Bradley Braves 2-0. Then on Sunday, the Wildcats battled back from a 1-0 halftime deficit for the second time in three games as Roth and sophomore Carl Pett each scored second half goals to lift NU over Drake 2-1. Pett was named the tournament MVP after he recorded playing a hand in both game-winning goals--assisting on Roth's game-winner on Friday before netting his first career goal for the clincher on Sunday. Will Nicholas and Drew Ratner joined Pett and Roth on the all-tournament team.
Junior midfielder David Roth was named this week's Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week. It is the first honor of Roth's career and the first for the Wildcats this season. Roth scored three goals last weekend to help the Wildcats go 2-0 and clinch the championship of the Adidas/Baymont Inn Invitational hosted by Northern Illinois. Roth tallied both Northwestern goals in the 2-0 win over Bradley before scoring his third goal of the weekend Sunday against Drake in the second half to tie the game at 1-1. Roth leads the Wildcats in both goals (4) and points (10) this season. He is tied for first on Northwestern all-time assists list (22) with teammate Gerardo Alvarez. Roth also played a key role in each of Northwestern's two opening wins. In the win over Hofstra, Roth served up a beautiful assist that led to the game-winning goal with less than 10 minutes to play. Then in the win over Dayton, he scored his first goal since the 2004 season when his game-winning tally from the left wing gave Northwestern a 1-0 win over Dayton--snapping a 19-game scoreless streak.
Freshman Eamon O'Neill registered the first points of his career in the win over UC Irvine on Sept. 4. The Wilmington, Del. native first assisted on Daniel Chille's second half goal to tie the game and later scored the game-winner unassisted to give the Wildcats the victory.
Sophomore Will Briley won the starting goalkeeper job in the preseason and is 3-1 on the young season with 21 saves and two shutouts. Briley, who has five career shutouts, shared time in goal last season with Misha Rosenthal and earned all-Big Ten freshman team honors.
Senior goalkeeper Justin Pines saw his first action of the season when he was inserted at halftime of the UC Irvine game. Pines, who picked up his first win since the 2004 season after sitting out last year with an injury, made four saves and held the Anteaters scoreless as the Wildcats came back from a 1-0 halftime deficit. Pines then played the entire second half in the win over Drake, holding them scoreless as Northwestern came back from a 1-0 halftime deficit.
The Wildcats finished second overall at the UCI College Classic with Eamon O'Neill, Daniel Chille and Will Nicholas named to the all-tournament team.
Freshman Mark Blades established himself early and often in the Wildcat backline in the opening weekend of the season and in the process, picked up Lakeside Classic MVP honors. Blades' quickness, speed and athleticism in the back smothered the opposition's attack throughout both games. A Lakewood, Ohio native, Blades was the 2005 Ohio Player of the Year for Cleveland-St. Ignatius.
There are no push-overs on this year's schedule. Twelve of the 17 teams on the regular-season slate finished last season with a winning record, with six of those teams advancing to the NCAA Tournament.
Head coach Tim Lenahan has Northwestern's men's soccer program on the rise. The Wildcats are coming off two of the most successful seasons in program history, going a program-best 15-6-2 in 2004--which included the program's first trip to the NCAA Tournament--before turning in another winning season last year (9-7-2) despite a lot of youth and injuries. The Wildcats are 5-1 so far this season, giving Lenahan a combined 29-14-4 record over the last two-plus years.
Tim Lenahan's 2006 freshman class has been ranked the 21st best recruiting class in the country according to collegesoccernews.com. In addition, two of those incoming freshmen, Eamon O'Neill and Mark Blades, have been named among the "top 100 freshmen to keep and eye on" this season. Indiana was the only other Big Ten school ranked above Northwestern. O'Neill and Blades, both highly recruited NSCAA high school all-Americans, are part of a very talented six-member incoming class. Blades, a Lakewood, Ohio native who led his high school to two state championships, was named the 2005 Ohio Player of the Year after recording 17 career goals and 41 assists. O'Neill hails from Wilmington, Del. where he took his Salesianum High School team to three state championships, recording 69 career goals and 64 assists and was named the Delaware Player of the Year in recognition of his outstanding efforts.
The Wildcats return to action next Wednesday when they travel locally to face DePaul at 3 p.m. Wednesday (9-20) before returning home to face Penn State at 12:30 p.m. the following Sunday (9-24).
NU, 5-1 entering the weekend, is looking to improve upon its best start in two years. Northwestern's best start over the last six seasons was in 2004 when the Wildcats started 6-1-1 on their way to the program's first NCAA Tournament bid.