Nittany Lions Continue Big Ten Play with Sunday Match-up at No. 14 Northwestern
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.; September 22, 2006 - At least a share of first place in the Big Ten standings will be on the line when the Penn State men's soccer team meets No. 14 Northwestern on Sun., Sept. 27 at 12:30 p.m. at Lakeside Field in Evanston, Ill. The Nittany Lions opened conference play by defeating Michigan State, 3-1, securing their ninth consecutive win over a Big Ten opponent. The Wildcats started its conference schedule by knocking off Ohio State, their first victory over the Buckeyes in 15 years.
Penn State could not capitalize on momentum gained from last weekend's conference season opening victory over Michigan State, dropping a 2-0 decision to No. 6 Maryland in College Park, Md. on Wednesday evening.
Senior co-captain Markku Viitanen (Pirkkala, Finland) made a welcome return to the starting line-up and the Penn State backline after missing the last four games due to injury. The game also marked the Nittany Lions' first outing without one of their top offensive weapons, sophomore forward Jason Yeisley (Allentown, Pa.), who suffered an injury on Sunday's win over the Spartans. Freshman Jacobo Vera (Pamplona, Spain) replaced Yeisley on the starting frontline.
Penn State recorded six shots for the game with six different players notching one each. The Lions matched the Terrapins in corner kicks, with each team tallying four.
Senior forward Simon Omekanda (Rochester Hills, Mich.) and sophomore midfielder Barkley Miller (New Freedom, Pa.) have stepped up their offensive games of late, collecting four points each in the last three games. The duo leads the team in assists with two and points with four. However with six different players scoring goals, Penn State's attack is a balanced one. In goal, junior keeper Conrad Taylor has registered 31 saves and possesses a 1.46 goals against average.
Northwestern enters Sunday's contest with Penn State riding a five-game winning streak. The Wildcats' 7-1-0 start to the 2006 season is the best of the head coach Tim Lenahan era and has vaulted them to a No. 14 ranking in the current NSCAA/adidas poll, the highest in program history. Northwestern's only loss this year came on Sept. 2, a 2-0 setback to No. 18 Santa Clara.
The Wildcats boast three players with two or more goals, led by junior midfielder David Roth, who has recorded a team-high five. Roth also tops the team in points with 12. Senior forward Brad North, who was named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week after scoring two goals in the win over the Buckeyes, has three total through eight games. Senior midfielder Daniel Chille leads the team in shots with 16 and is third on the team in goals with two. Carl Pett and Gerardo Alvarez have combined for seven assists.
Goalkeeper Will Briley has three shutouts to his credit and owns a 0.86 goals against average.
Northwestern has proven to be a slow starter and a fast finisher in 2006, as the Wildcats have been outscored by their opponents 5-1 in the first half of games but outscored their opponents 12-1 in the second half.
Penn State has dominated the all-time series with Northwestern, compiling a near-perfect 18-1-1 record since the teams' first meeting in 1991. In 2005, the Nittany Lions routed the Wildcats 4-1 in a downpour at Jeffrey Field. Jason Yeisley scored two goals, including the game-winner, and Jeff Chambers tallied two assists in what would prove to be the victory that launched Penn State's 10-game winning streak.
The Nittany Lions return home after two road journeys to take on No. 8 West Virginia at Jeffrey Field on Wed., Sept. 27 at 7:00 p.m. The non-conference match-up is the opener of a four-game homestand that will also feature games with Ohio State, No. 21 Akron, and Buffalo. The Nittany Lions-Mountaineers contest will also be a homecoming of sorts as Penn State welcomes back former five-year assistant coach Marlon LeBlanc to University Park. Now the head coach of the West Virginia program, LeBlanc has the Mountaineers off to an impressive 6-1-2 start and a No. 8 national ranking.