The Michigan State Spartans (11-2-2, 5-0-2 Big 10) handed the ‘Cats (5-10, 1-6 Big 10) a tough Senior Night loss with a 2-0 shutout on Friday, Oct. 20. The Spartans overcame a solid defensive performance from the Wildcats to score two late goals to take the win. Northwestern celebrated its Senior Night by facing off against the No. 9 team in the country in Michigan State, who entered the contest without a loss in Big Ten play.
Before the game, Northwestern honored its departing seniors in their last conference home game: Riley Kelliher, John Moderwell, Elo Ozumba, Francisco Tomasino, and Rouven Wahlfeldt. Kelliher’s mother made the trip from New Zealand to see her son play for the first time at Northwestern.
The Spartans, known for their defensive capabilities and propensity to win tight matches, set the tone of the match with a physical pace of play matched by the ‘Cats; in total, 26 fouls were called in the match. Michigan State had an offensive edge from the beginning: Northwestern mustered only four shots to Michigan State’s eight. The Wildcat defense held firm, however, with senior goalkeeper Francisco Tomasino coming up with three saves by the break.
Northwestern began the second half by pressing immediately and were almost rewarded for their efforts after sophomore midfielder Mattias Tomasino had a free kick parried away by Spartan keeper Jimmy Hague, who ended the game with his tenth shutout of the season. Michigan State responded by applying more pressure until, with 13 minutes remaining, Spartan midfielder Michael Marcantognini dribbled across the goal and laid a pass for defender Michael Pimlott, who hammered the ball from outside the box to score what would be the game’s decisive goal.
Northwestern could not get any offense going in the second half after the opening flurry, but they managed to still maintain some possession on Michigan State’s side of the pitch. The Spartans then capped off their win on a late counterattack with five minutes remaining as forward DeJuan Jones raced down the left touchline before pinning Tomasino at his post and crossing to forward Ryan Sierakowski, who slammed the ball into the top of the net.
The ‘Cats now sit seventh in the Big Ten with their next match against Loyola (5-5-3, 1-3-1 MVC) on Tuesday, Oct. 24 at Martin Stadium. The team should take its defensive performance from the game as a positive as it seeks to gain ground against other Big Ten squads and prepare for the conference tournament next month.