The Northwestern Men's Soccer team (13-6-4) had their NCAA tournament run halted at the hands of the tenth-ranked Louisville Cardinals (14-5-1) by a 2-1 result Sunday evening.
The Wildcats got off to a nightmare start allowing a goal within the first two minutes, but answered right back a couple minutes later on a Jarrett Baughman finish off of a rebound from Chris Ritter's head. The goal was the first of the season for the senior captain defender Baughman, who was wearing a mask to protect a broken nose sustained in practice earlier in the week.
After all the action in the first five minutes, the game remained tied 1-1 until the 87th minute when disaster struck for the Wildcats. Louisville star Dylan Mares broke through the middle of the field beating a few Wildcat defenders and took a shot from around the penalty spot . Mares' shot was heading well wide of the target, but in an effort to block the attempt a Northwestern defender knocked the ball in for an own goal and just like that NU's hopes of matching their furthest ever appearance in the NCAA tournament (Elite Eight in '06 & '08) were dashed. Northwestern had a couple half chances after that on long throw-ins, but could not muster a strong opportunity on goal.
The game overall was fairly even with each team having nine shots apiece and Louisville holding a slight five to four advantage in shots on goal. The Cardinals held more of the possession and as the game wore on started getting the better of the chances which ultimately paid off, but the Wildcats battled throughout. Louisville has some very dynamic players highlighted by Mares and centerback Andrew Farrell, who look to be surefire professionals so it is with no shame to fall to Louisville who has a strong history of top talent and is only two years removed from a national championship game appearance.
In the end, this game will mark as the final game in a incredibly successful tenure for the senior class of Baughman, Ritter, Nick Gendron, Kyle Schickel, Michael Walbridge and Tommy Tombridge. Although, the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, Ritter, does have the option for a fifth year due to a medical redshirt and will have a tough decision on whether to pursue potential Major League Soccer opportunities or return to Northwestern. This senior class was a part of the school's first-ever Big Ten title last season and three titles overall along with three trips to the NCAA tournament.
The 2012 Big Ten regular season co-champions conclude their season with a 13-6-4 record.