Sept. 23, 2004
EVANSTON, Ill. -- At the beginning of the season, Northwestern head coach Tim Lenahan knew his team's ability to attack would be "stronger than it has been in my time here."
He did not expect it would be this good.
With 17 goals through seven games, NU ranks second in the Big Ten in goals (2.42) and points (7.57) per game. The Wildcats top the league in total goals scored and rank eighth nationally in the category.
All this scoring has added up to a 5-1-1 mark for Northwestern a third of the way through the schedule -- NU's best start ever. The 'Cats are currently riding a five-game unbeaten streak.
"So far we have played good soccer," Lenahan said. "When we need a big play for the most part we have gotten it. There have been contributions from many, many people."
Sophomore Gerardo Alvarez (Aurora, Ill./Marmion Academy) has been the main finisher for NU, racking up seven goals and 16 points on the season, both good for eighth in the country.
Every good finisher has his set-up man, and to date that has been freshman David Roth (St. Louis, Mo./Chaminade). Roth has registered six assists this year -- a total tied for fourth best in the nation.
While they have not put up the gaudy numbers of Alvarez and Roth this season, sophomores Will Nicholas (Orefield, Pa./Parkland) and Brad North (The Woodlands, Texas/The Woodlands) have earned the last two Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week awards. Nicholas scored two goals with three assists in NU's Lakeside Classic while North netted both goals in a win in the finale of the Puma Soccer Classic.
The 'Cats will go on the attack again this weekend in Evansville, Ind., at the ProRehab Aces Soccer Classic. NU faces Oral Roberts at 5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 24, and host Evansville at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 26. Northwestern has won all three of the previous Classics it has participated in.
"Winning tournament championships was on our list of goals when we started the season," Lenahan said. "We have played nine other teams in three tournaments and came out on top in all three. While it is not the end-all goal for the season, winning these certainly feels pretty good when it is all said and done."
Oral Roberts enters Friday's match with a 4-2-1 mark. Shutouts have been a theme for the Golden Eagles all season: All four of their wins have come by shutout, they were blanked in both of their losses and the tie was a 0-0 affair.
The Aces come into the weekend with a 1-5-1 record. Their lone win came in a season-opening, 2-1 victory over Wisconsin. Evansville has played some tough competition, dropping matches with nationally ranked Notre Dame and Indiana.
"We play teams very close to us in ability this weekend," Lenahan said. "Oral Roberts has gotten some good wins so far and Evansville has a great tradition in soccer. They gave us a great match last year in our place. I expect us to be challenged this weekend."
* NU also went on a five-game unbeaten streak last season, stringing together a 3-0-2 mark between Sept. 12-28.
* The last time the Wildcats went unbeaten over six matches was 1988, when they did it twice, including an eight-game winning streak to conclude a 14-4-1 campaign.
* Roth's six assists already tie him for seventh on Northwestern's single-season list.
* A third of the way through his sophomore season, Alvarez's 16 goals as a Wildcat tie him for seventh on NU's career list.