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Northwestern upsets Marquette to move to third round of NCAA Tournament

by Callie Counsellor (@CCounsellor)

Player of the game: Forward Joey Calistri showed once again that he is not intimidated by the big stage. In the first half, the freshman took a pass from Scott Lakin and one-touched it into the upper right corner of the net, giving Northwestern a 1-0 victory over No. 7-seed Marquette in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Calistri’s ninth goal of the season came in his biggest game to date, but he also scored a goal in a tie with Indiana, which gave the Wildcats a share of the Big Ten Title, as well as in the first game of the Big Ten Tournament, which Northwestern won 2-0 over Ohio State. “I said ‘the next thing on your resume is an NCAA goal,’” Lenahan said. “Sure enough, that came today. He works, and works, and works, and works, and good things happen when somebody works as hard as he does.”

Stat of the game: The 1-0 victory was NU’s eighth one-goal win of the year, a testament to the Cats’ struggles on offense but also to the defense’s ability to protect a close lead. “Once you get to the round of 16 or the round of 32, every game is going to be a nail-biter,” Lenahan said. “We played great, we played together, everybody worked hard for each other, and I think at the end of the day, we made a play and then really defended like warriors for the rest of the game.”

Seniors step up: After the loss to Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament, Lenahan told NU’s seniors that “as the seniors go, so goes the team,” according to senior midfielder Nick Gendron. On Sunday afternoon, they responded, with seniors Chris Ritter and Kyle Schickel combining for three of NU’s eight shots, and two of the team’s four shots on goal. Senior Jarrett Baughman anchored a defense that held the Golden Eagles scoreless, after Marquette finished second in in the Big East and twelfth in the country in goals scored this season. “Chris Ritter was phenomenal today,” Lenahan said. “I just can’t say enough about his performance today. He played 90 minutes probably for the first time in three years. Jarrett…(was) winning head balls and defending in the box. Nick Gendron had an injury and really gutted it out. We always say when your seniors play (their) best game in your last game, you get to play one more last game. So we get another last game.”

What it means: Northwestern will play in the round of 16 for the fourth time in seven years after not making the tournament in the first 24 years of their existence. All of the Cats’ seven tournament appearances have come under Lenahan. “I just think that it shows that our model of finding great guys that believe in Northwestern soccer works,” Lenahan said. “It’s not the four-star or five-star recruits that are coming here, it’s very good players that just believe in part of what we like to call something special.”

What’s next: The Wildcats will take on No. 10 Louisville, which won its second round game against Winthrop, 5-0. However, with the game not taking place until next Sunday, NU will have some time to savor the win and rest its legs. “I’m not worried about preparing for Louisville right now,” Lenahan said. “We’re going to enjoy beating Marquette for at least 24 hours. We’ve played four games in the last 10 days. Our preparation right now is to enjoy the win and get these guys rest over the next few days.”