Going into this weekend’s Big Ten Tournament, the Wildcats (6-9-5) hadn’t beaten a Division I opponent since September 9th. But 8th-seeded Northwestern (there are nine Big Ten men’s soccer teams) came back from an early one goal deficit to beat hapless Ohio State and advance to play one of the best teams in the nation, and the Wildcats pushed Indiana to the brink.
After 80 scoreless minutes, Rece Buckmaster’s goal on the Hoosiers’ 24th shot seemed to clinch things. But Matt Moderwell had other plans. The junior’s incredible 89th minute goal off of passes from Julian Zighelboim and Jake Roberge, seemingly out of nowhere, kept the game, and the season alive.
But alas, a massive upset was not to be. Indiana scored the game-winner just 6:11 into overtime, sending the Wildcats and their seniors home empty-handed. But though the team struggled in Big Ten play and couldn’t quite end the season on a high note, 2018 was an improvement for coach Tim Lenahan’s still-rebuilding side. After last year’s team failed to get a result from any Big Ten squad except for hapless Rutgers, Northwestern earned three draws, including one against #13 Michigan State, in an improved Big Ten.
The Wildcats also had a few heartbreaking losses in overtime besides Sunday’s defeat, all in all going 1-4-5 in games that reached extra time. The team hung with some of the most talented teams in the country night after night, but often couldn’t quite convert. Still, for a young, talented team, the season was a step in the right direction.
Northwestern will lose leading goal-scorer Camden Buescher, along with significant contributors in John Moderwell (Matt’s brother) and Jake Roberge. But the young core of this team returns, including stud sophomore goalkeeper Miha Miskovic and talented freshmen in the aforementioned Zighelboim, Jose Del Valle, and Bardia Kimiavi. Veteran back line members Andrew McLeod, Garrett Opperman, and Sean Lynch return as well.
The Wildcats may not have ended an up-and-down season the way they wanted to, but after taking significant strides in 2018, next year’s squad will be primed to take the leap.