What started as a hopeful season ended poorly for Northwestern (7-9-2, 4-4-0 B1G), as the fifth-seeded 'Cats were defeated 2-0 by the fourth-seeded Rutgers Scarlet Knights (12-5-1, 4-4-0 B1G) in the first round of the Big Ten soccer tournament on Sunday,
Mitchell Taintor opened the scoring in the 24th minute, putting Rutgers up 1-0. The Wildcats were able to generate some offense, pressuring the Scarlet Knights throughout the match, but were unable to find the back of the net. Rutgers outshot the Wildcats 18-12, and a second goal by Taintor in the 85th minute sealed the deal.
It was a season of disappointment for the Wildcats, as it was their first finish under .500 since 2002. Many times throughout the year, the ‘Cats would get an important win and look to be building some momentum – only to suffer a crushing loss in their next game and be knocked down again.
Coming into the season, star senior Joey Calistri (27 goals) was just six goals shy of Matt Eliason’s all-time NU goal scoring record (33). Breaking out as a sophomore in 2013, Calistri’s 12 goals and 28 points led the Big Ten. This year, Calistri scored twice in a 2-1 win over Ohio State on Sep. 11 and once in a 2-1 win over Depaul on Oct. 7, but those were his only goals all year. Calistri finishes his NU career with 30 goals, placing him second on the all-time scoring list, but his three goals this year were the fewest of his four-year college career.
But Calistri still led the team in assists (6) and total points (12), so the ‘Cats will have trouble replacing his leadership and playmaking abilities. Junior Mike Roberge led the team in goals (4) and will be asked to step up even more next year.
For a program accustomed to more success, this season is a blip in the Wildcats’ recent string of winning seasons. NU will certainly learn from its disappointing campaign and look to get back to its winning ways next year.