WHO: Maryland Terrapins @ Northwestern Wildcats
WHAT: Men's soccer B1G Conference game
WHERE: Lakeside Field, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois
WHEN: Sunday, October 5, 2014 at 1:00 pm Eastern
The Terps are looking to bounce back from what coach Sasho Cirovski called a "disappointing" loss to local rival Georgetown. In that game, the Hoyas handed Maryland their fourth shutout of the season. This doesn't bode well for the Terrapins as you will see when you read on.
Why the Wildcats?
We've tried to present some fun facts about each Big Ten opponent's mascot in each of our previews. However, "Wildcat" is somewhat generic and doesn't carry the cachet of being able to write about it's anal scent glands (ala the Wolverines) or its absence from the state (see, Badgers, Wisconsin). However, the ever trusty Wikipedia did provide some fun facts:
The first mascot was a live, caged bear cub from the Lincoln Park Zoo named Furpaw. In fall 1923, Furpaw was driven to the playing field to greet the fans before each game. After a losing season, the team decided that Furpaw was the harbinger of bad luck and banished him from campus.
The name "Wildcats" was bestowed upon the university in 1924 by a writer for the Chicago Tribune who wrote that even in a loss to the University of Chicago Maroons, the Northwestern football players looked like "Wildcats [that] had come down from Evanston." The name was so popular that university board members made "Wildcats" the official nickname just months later.
In 1933, the Northwestern athletic department and an advertising firm created the first image of Willie. He did not actually come to life until 1947, when members of the Alpha Delta fraternity dressed up as him during the Homecoming parade.
In two displays of brilliant originality, Northwestern shares their chosen mascot with nine other NCAA Division I athletics programs. It's the fourth most common mascot behind Tigers (3), Eagles (2), and Bulldogs (1). Additionally, the "Wildcat" mascots of Northwestern and Kansas State share the name Willie.
Wildcats on the pitch
The 2013 Wildcats finished 10-8-1 and 1-4-1 in the Big Ten. They reached the semifinals of the B1G Tournament upsetting Wisconsin before falling 1-0 to Michigan State. Despite their league record, their overall performance was strong enough to earn them a spot in the NCAA Tournament where they lost 3-2 in the first round to Bradley. The Wildcats averaged just over 1.5 goals per game while conceding a slightly inflated 1.1 goals against. A factor in their goals against average was the loss of starting goalkeeper Tyler Miller for a five game stretch.
Northwestern enters Sunday's contest with an overall record of 4-1-4 and they are 0-1-2 in conference play. They are undefeated at home with only a 0-0 tie against Michigan standing out as any sort of negative mark. Although they returned three of their top four scorers from the 2013 squad, with only nine goals on the season, the Wildcats have had nearly as much difficulty finding the back of the net as the Terrapins. When they do score, it happens in the second half when they have recorded all nine of their goals.
Their defense, on the other hand has been exceptionally difficult to penetrate. The Wildcats have recorded six shutouts in their nine games thus far this season and have conceded only four total goals. Northwestern takes about 10 shots per game and concedes the same number to their foes on the pitch.
Players to Watch
Joey Calistri, #10, junior, forward. Though he has only scored three goals this season, Calistri was the scoring and points leader in the Big Ten as a sophomore with 12 goals and 28 total points. He was the unanimous choice for Freshman of the Year and backed that up as a first team All-Big Ten selection as a sophomore. He is the Wildcats' leading scorer in 2014 as well.
Tyler Miller, #1, senior, goalkeeper. Once again I find myself including a goalkeeper in the Players to Watch segment. However, once again since defense is a hallmark of Northwestern's play, it makes some sense to shine a light on Miller who was first team All-Big Ten as a sophomore and likely missed that designation in his junior season only because he missed five games. Despite that, Miller led the league with eight shutouts in 2013 and, as noted above, has recorded six shutouts in the season's first nine games. He has a 0.889 save percentage and a 0.40 goals against average. Five of those shutouts have come at home.
As has often been the case in this inaugural Big Ten season for Maryland, Sunday's game will be the first time the two schools meet on the pitch. As noted in our mid-season review, the Terrapins are a team searching for their identity on the offensive end of the field and in desperate need of finding ways to score goals. The Terps will thus find themselves facing a strenuous challenge against a Wildcats team that has yet to concede a goal on their home field.