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    Wildcats Head to Indiana Seeking Big Ten Tournament Title

    NUSPORTSDOTCOM Mark Blades and the Wildcats travel to Bloomington, Ind., in search of a Big Ten tournament title.
    Mark Blades and the Wildcats travel to Bloomington, Ind., in search of a Big Ten tournament title.

    Nov. 11, 2009

    NU 2009 Big Ten Tournament Game Notes (PDF)

    EVANSTON, Ill. - Third-seeded and 16th-ranked Northwestern opens play at the 2009 Big Ten Men's Soccer Tournament on Thursday as it faces sixth-seeded Michigan State. Kickoff is set for 9 a.m. Central time. Gametracker can be accessed via The winner of the contest moves on to Friday's semifinal round where it faces the winner of the match between host and No. 4 seed Indiana and fifth-seeded Wisconsin.

    The championship game is slated for 1 p.m. Sunday. Both the semifinal round and championship match are being televised live by the Big Ten Network.

    Big Ten Tournament History
    Northwestern has never won a Big Ten tournament title and has appeared in the title game just once, falling 1-0 to Michigan State in 2004. The Wildcats are 6-18-0 all-time in Big Ten tourney matches.

    Scouting Michigan State
    The Spartans (10-6-2, 2-4-0 Big Ten) finished the Big Ten tied for sixth place and got the No. 6 seed based on their win over Michigan, the team they tied with. Rubin Bega paces Michigan State with nine goals and five assists for 23 points. Jeff Ricondo is first on the squad with seven assists and second with five goals and 17 points. Avery Steinlage leads the league with a 0.61 goals-against average and is second with a .853 save percentage. Jeremy Clark (1.80 gaa, .750 save %) played in goal for MSU in its regular season finale against NU.

    Series Information
    Michigan State leads the all-time series with Northwestern 26-5-2. The Wildcats won this year's regular season meeting 1-0 last Saturday, Nov. 7.

    Wildcats Take Down Spartans, 1-0
    Matt Eliason's 13th goal of the season just over five minutes in the match held up as Northwestern concluded its regular season Saturday with a 1-0 win over Michigan State at Lakeside Field. On Senior Night, redshirt junior Kevin Valenta fed a ball through the box to Eliason who found himself one-on-one with Jeremy Clark and beat him for the score. It was Eliason's 30th goal of his career, tying him with Jonathan Hall (1986-89) for the school's all-time lead. The Wildcat defense made the one-goal advantage hold up the rest of the way with Misha Rosenthal making two saves to earn his sixth shutout of the season and the 19th of his career.

    Eliason's Stellar Season
    Few players in the nation can boast the start to the season that Northwestern junior forward Matt Eliason has had. 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, Eliason has scored 13 goals this season, including seven in the team's first four matches. The 13 goals rank tied for fifth in the nation. After scoring two goals apiece against against Oakland and Tulsa Sept. 11 and 13, he was named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week and Top Drawer Soccer's National Player of the Week. College Soccer News rewarded with another National Player of the Week honor Oct. 26 after he posted game-winning goals against both Loyola Chicago and Indiana. Eliason's 30 career goals are ties with Jonathan Hall (1986-89) for the school record. He has also gotten the job done in the classroom as he was recently named an ESPN the Magazine Academic All-District V selection and is eligible for Academic All-America consideration.

    Down to the Wire
    Of Northwestern's 17 matches this season, 16 have been decided by one goal or less. Only a 2-0 victory over Indiana Oct. 25 is NU's lone match this season hasn't ended in a tie or a one-goal differential. Eight of the team's matches have gone to overtime, with the Wildcats posting a 2-2-4 record in those contests.

    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). This year's group is also the winningest class in school history having notched 51 wins. The record-breaking victory came in last Saturday's regular-season finale, a 1-0 win over Michigan State. The 51 wins surpass last year's senior class which won 50 contests.

    Reaching New Heights
    Picked to finish second in this year's preseason Big Ten poll, Northwestern finished exactly in that spot, tied with Penn State. The second-place finish is the Wildcats' best in program history. NU's 3-2-1 mark against conference foes matches the 2004 and 2007 teams for the program's best Big Ten record in a season.

    Kupe's Contributions
    Sophomore forward Oliver Kupe has established himself as one of the top table-setters in the Big Ten this season. Kupe is tied with Michigan State's Jeff Ricando for the conference lead with seven assists in 2009. He posted five assists in the team's first four matches this season, recording at least one assist in each of the four contests. Kupe burst on to the scene in the second round of last year's NCAA tournament when he tallied a pair of second-half goals (the first two of his collegiate career) in a 2-1 win at 12th-seeded Notre Dame.

    Up Next...
    Northwestern will learn its NCAA tournament destination on Monday, Nov. 16 when the field of 48 is announced. ESPNews is set to carry the announcement live between 4:30 and 5 p.m. Central time.