Dec. 27, 2007
Complete 2007 NU Men's Soccer Final Release
EVANSTON, Ill. -
Northwestern's men's soccer program continued to establish itself as a force both in the Big Ten Conference and nationally during the 2007 season. Ranked as high as No. 3 in the country at one time - the program's highest ranking ever - the Wildcats made their third NCAA tournament appearance in school history, all coming in the last four years.
Despite falling to UIC in the second round of the NCAA tournament, the program proved it intends to be a consistent winner for years to come. The Wildcats completed the 2007 campaign with a 12-5-3 overall mark and a 3-2-1 record in Big Ten play.
NU would finish the season ranked No. 21 in the final NSCAA poll and more impressively No. 9 in the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) by virtue of playing such a strong schedule.
Northwestern faced a strong trio of opponents during the exhibition season which proved to prepare the team well once the regular season arrived. The Wildcats would claim titles at each of the three early-season tournaments they competed in, including winning their own season-opening Lakeside Classic in dramatic fashion. Freshman Matt Eliason's first career goal just 19 seconds into the first overtime period gave NU a 2-1 win over Bucknell.
The team followed by winning the Yale Soccer Classic and the adidas/Baymont Inn NIU Tournament, shutting out all four opponents along the way.
Northwestern carried that momentum into the start of the Big Ten season, posting a dominating 4-0 win at then-No. 19 and eventual national runner-up Ohio State. Sophomore Carl Pett and Piero Bellizzi led the way for NU, recording two goals and an assist apiece while David Roth tied his own school record with three assists. Pett was recognized as the Big Ten Player of the Week and Soccer America National Player of the Week for his efforts.
An ensuing 1-0 home win over local rival Loyola (Chicago), the first game on their brand new Lakeside Field turf facility, allowed the Wildcats to race out to a 7-0-1 record to open the season.
The team's five consecutive shutouts set a new program record, besting the previous mark of four set on three previous occasions. In all, NU held its opponents scoreless over an impressive span of 536 minutes and 25 seconds.
Penn State would hand NU its first loss of the season before the squad bounced back with a solid 3-0 victory over Wisconsin, giving the team its seventh shutout in 10 games. The 'Cats then posted their most dramatic triumph of the season as senior Matt Witt scored the first goal of his career as regulation time expired in a 2-1 victory over cross-town foe DePaul.
The win set up huge match-up at Lakeside Field with perennial power Indiana. The Hoosiers would escape with a 1-0 win. Perhaps the bigger loss came when Northwestern sophomore goalkeeper Misha Rosenthal went down with a knee injury in the process that would sideline him until the NCAA tournament.
The Wildcats' scoring slump continued over the next two matches as they managed just one goal in a scoreless tie at Michigan and a disheartening 2-1 double-overtime defeat at Northern Illinois.
NU would respond, however, posting a key 2-0 victory over No. 16 Michigan State to wrap up its Big Ten season and tie the school mark for its best Big Ten record in a season at 3-2-1. A win over Western Illinois and a tie against Green Bay gave Northwestern an 11-3-3 record entering the postseason.
The Wildcats earned the No. 3 seed for the Big Ten tournament in East Lansing, Mich., and easily handled sixth-seeded Wisconsin 3-1 in the opening round behind two goals by Roth. The win set up a rematch with Ohio State, the No. 2 seed. The Buckeyes would net a goal early in the second half and NU was unable to convert on a number of quality scoring chances in falling 1-0 to OSU.
Northwestern earned the No. 9 national seed, its highest ever, and a first-round bye in the NCAA tournament. Facing off against another local foe in UIC - which defeat Saint Louis in the first round - and playing for the first time in 19 days, the Wildcats saw their season come to an end with a 2-0 loss to the Flames before a large crowd at Lakeside Field. UIC would go on to advance to the national quarterfinals.
Despite the disappointing finish to the season, Northwestern's senior class went out as the winningest class in school history by virtue of the 50 wins over their four years. The group appeared in three NCAA tournaments and built the program into a national force.
Roth cemented his spot as one of the top players in school history, finishing his career as the school's all-time leader with 32 assists while ranking third with 70 total points. He was one of a school-record five Wildcats to earn All-Big Ten honors, picking up his second straight first-team honor by virtue of his unanimous selection. Roth was also honored as the first All-America pick in school history, earning second-team recognition from the NSCAA and College Soccer News.
Bellizzi led Northwestern with eight assists, finished second with 16 points and became the second player in NU history to be named Big Ten Freshman of the Year, joining Gerardo Alvarez who received the award in 2003. College Soccer News also named him one of the four midfielders on its Freshman All-America first team.
Rosenthal established himself as one of the top goalkeepers in the country prior to his injury, posting seven shutouts in the team's first 10 matches. He was still named a second-team All-Big Ten pick despite missing a month of play.
Also earning All-Big Ten honors were Pett (1st team) and sophomore defender Mark Blades (2nd team). Roth was a first-team NSCAA All-Great Lakes Region selection, while Blades was named to the second team and Bellizzi and Pett were named to the third team.