Nov. 21, 2008

Courtesy Northwestern

EVANSTON, Ill. - Ninety minutes of regulation and two 10-minute overtime sessions wasn't enough time to solve anything in the NCAA men's soccer tournament first-round match between Northwestern and Loyola Chicago Friday evening at Lakeside Field. After the teams played to a scoreless tie, the Wildcats converted on each of their penalty kick attempts, topping the Ramblers 4-1 to advance to next Tuesday's second round at 12th-seeded Notre Dame.

On a frigid and windy night along Lake Michigan, 801 fans braved the elements to see host Northwestern (13-4-3) move on in its fourth NCAA tournament appearance in the last five seasons.

Jack Hillgard, who hadn't played in the game during regulation, was the first player to take a PK for Northwestern and buried it to the left of Loyola keeper Brian Byrne. Chris Mills then stepped up for Loyola's first attempt, but Misha Rosenthal, one of the nation's leaders in goals-against average, stepped up to make a huge diving save to give NU the lead after the first round.

After Matt Eliason put his attempt away, the Wildcats were in the driver's seat when Keum Sung Kim followed by hitting the post. Mark Blades converted next for Northwestern before Eric Gehrig kept the Ramblers alive by finding the net.

However, Brian Usinger, who had taken both of the Wildcats' penalty kick attempts during the regular season, buried his try into the upper left corner of the net to clinch the victory for the hosts.

NU finished the defensive struggle with a 12-8 edge in shots, including limiting the Ramblers to just two shots after the opening half of play.

Rosenthal denied the Ramblers 25 minutes into the contest as he made a kick save on a shot by Mark Halma. Just over two minutes later, Loyola had another great chance as a scramble in the box found Rosenthal out of position, but Cody Stanley was in the right place at the right time as he was able to save a shot by Kim off the goalline.

From that point on, though, the quality offensive chances belonged to the Wildcats.

Northwestern nearly prevented the match from going into penalty kicks with just one minute left in the second extra session as a Loyola defender was able to save a header by Drew Ratner just before it found the net.

However, the 'Cats stepped up to advance to the second round with a near-perfect effort in the penalty kick session.

The Wildcats face Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., next Tuesday, Nov. 25 at 6 p.m. Central time.