Northwestern men’s soccer (6-9-3, 3-5-0 B1G) fell to Indiana (14-5-1, 5-3-0 B1G) 1-0 in a tight overtime loss on Wednesday afternoon, ending their season. Graduate goalkeeper Miha Miskovic shined again in his final bout for the Wildcats – totaling seven saves on the day – but sophomore defender Joey Maher of Indiana came away the hero, scoring the sole goal of the match in overtime.
Heading into this match, Northwestern was the underdog. Searching for their fourth consecutive Big Ten championship, Indiana entered this tournament sitting at the number three seed, while also sitting atop the conference in number of goals this season with 34. Moreover, Northwestern holds a record of 2-16-5 against the Hoosiers since the year 2000. This season, Indiana had won their sole encounter 2-1.
Coming off an electrifying victory against second-seeded Maryland, however, the ’Cats held out hope to change the tides in which history has been flowing and charge on with the same momentum. As the starting whistle blew, both sides looked ready to play.
The first half started competitive and stayed that way. Both teams saw their fair share of offensive opportunities, taking turns rushing the opposing goal box. While they each racked up five shots in the half, none landed due to strong defensive fronts. Graduate defender Spencer Farina, as well as sophomore midfielder Rom Brown, led this effort for the ’Cats, each making several key stops.
The Wildcat offense got close to scoring on several occasions but never had the final touch needed to get on the scoreboard. They excelled in getting into breakaway situations, but would consistently pass it just barely too far or short, allowing Indiana to retake possession. Sophomore forward Justin Weiss put up two shots, though none found their mark. Freshman midfielder Paul Son was also key in applying this pressure.
While the Wildcats were unable to score on these breakaways, they did give Northwestern a sense of momentum. It felt like the Indiana defense was on the ropes, with the scorecard in favor of Northwestern.
Unfortunately for Northwestern, Indiana opened up the second half. In total, the Hoosiers tallied 13 shots this half, six of which were on goal. They dominated possession, along with stifling any offensive rally the ’Cats attempted to stir. Controlling the ball, a Hoosier goal seemed almost certain.
Under pressure, however, Miskovic was a diamond, going six-for-six on saves in the half and refusing to let anything by him. The foundation of the defense, Miskovic held Indiana scoreless, blocking a barrage of shots coming from the top of the box.
With less than five minutes remaining in regular time, the Wildcats launched only their second true offensive attack of the half. A lengthy possession culminated in a shot from freshman midfielder Danh Tran. The ’Cats efforts ultimately proved fruitless, sending the match to overtime.
To begin overtime, both teams seemed to be firing on all cylinders. Northwestern charged Indiana's box and racked up three shots in quick succession. The Hoosier defense was impeccable, however. With the efforts of junior goalkeeper Celentano Roman, they blocked everything that came their way in a magnificent feat. This was a devastating blow to the Wildcats, as it seemed their chance for victory may have just slipped away.
Following this sequence, Indiana began their counterattack. Passing the ball downfield, Indiana quickly found themselves in the Northwestern box. Hoosier defender Spencer Glass drew three Wildcats onto him but made a quick pass to defender Joey Maher, who found the bottom left corner of the net to conclude the game in a Hoosier victory.
While unable to strike down the Goliath that faced them, this Northwestern team has much to be proud of. At times this season there were doubts they would make it into the Big Ten tournament, let alone have the chance to play in the semifinals. They played a great Indiana team tough, coming within inches of victory.
This loss may sting, but there’s plenty of fuel for the fire moving into year two of the Russell Payne era.