NU's leading scorer Calistri helps 'Cats topple No. 7 Notre Dame
EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern notched two first-half goals, and weathered the storm - both literally and figuratively - in the second half to hold on for a 2-1 win against No. 7 Notre Dame on Tuesday. After Joey Calistri and Lepe Seetane put the 'Cats up 2-0 in the first half, the home team overcame shifting winds and a late goal from Notre Dame to post its first victory against a top-10 opponent since defeating No. 4 Akron in the 2008 NCAA Tournament.
"Notre Dame is a great team," Northwestern head coach Tim Lenahan said. "They're one of the top teams in the country, but I think we played pretty evenly with them in terms of possession and things like that until that wind kicked up in the second half and then we just couldn't get out of our half and we managed to hang on a little bit.
"The one good thing [with the wind] was we had a two-goal lead. [In the second half] we had little margin for error and [Patrick Hodan] made a really great play on their goal. He actually was their best player, and he really gave us some fits down there. The final 20 minutes of the game took a long time, we were nervous on the sidelines, but our guys dug in and we got a signature win for this team."
The Wildcats were the aggressors from the opening whistle. Just three minutes into the contest, Lepe Seetane drove a low cross to an open Kyle Schickel in front, whose first-touch shot went a few feet wide.
NU broke through in the 14th minute with a pinpoint pass. Chris Ritter put Joey Calistri through the Notre Dame back line on a run at the far corner of the 18-yard box. Using one touch to put the ball onto his right foot, Calistri tucked the shot into the far post past Notre Dame goalkeeper Patrick Wall to give the 'Cats a 1-0 lead. Calistri's fifth goal of the season makes him the Wildcats' leading goal-scorer on the year.
Just five minutes later, Grant Wilson sent a long ball deep into the Notre Dame half, which Calistri was able to track down and tackle away from the opposing center back. Seetane received Calistri's cross at the top of the box, made his defender miss with a first touch, and fired a left-footed strike into the top left corner. The goal was Seetane's first of the year, and put NU up 2-0 in the 19th minute.
Runs down the touch lines from outside backs Henry Herrill and Scott Lakin allowed Northwestern to keep the pressure on Notre Dame, and maintain possession in their half. Sophomore Tyler Miller was tested on two long-range shots, but smothered them both to help NU get to the break up 2-0.
Early in the second half, Schickel laid a ball off for Lakin who crossed it on a sprint down the left side. The ball found Calistri, whose header sailed just inches over the crossbar.
The wind picked up considerably with 20 minutes to go, making it difficult for Northwestern to hold onto possession. The rain followed with under 10 minutes on the clock, as Notre Dame began to push forward aggressively for an equalizer.
With less than five minutes to play, the visitors finally notched a goal. Patrick Hodan had his original shot blocked, but bullied his way to the rebound and slid a low shot in past the near post to cut NU's lead in half.
Worsening weather turned the last five minutes into a struggle between Northwestern's backline of Lakin, Wilson, Jarrett Baughman and Herrill and Notre Dame's forwards. NU was forced to repeatedly clear the ball, but the violent winds kept pushing the ball back towards the Wildcat goal. Ultimately, both the 'Cats' backline and the 2-1 advantage held firm, with NU grabbing a key win.
Miller was huge down the stretch for Northwestern, finishing with six saves. Notre Dame outshot the 'Cats 21-9, including the 15-2 clip in the second half, but NU was able to capitalize on their opportunities.
NU also had the 5-3 edge on corner kicks in the match.