Big Ten Championship Preview

Nov. 8, 2005

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The 2005 Big Ten Men's Soccer Championship begins Thursday, Nov. 10 on the campus of Northwestern University at the Leonard B. Thomas Sports Complex in Evanston, Ill. The winner of the Big Ten Championship will be awarded the automatic bid to the NCAA Championship.

Penn State earned the No. 1 seed after going undefeated in conference action this season and will be riding its longest winning streak since 2002 with seven straight victories. The Nittany Lions' six conference wins set a new school record for Big Ten victories in a season. They currently lead the league with 12 goals, 39 points and 15 assists in Big Ten play with freshman Jason Yeisly recording four goals, three game-winners and 10 points. Sophomore goalkeeper Conrad Taylor is ranked third with 26 saves and leads the conference with three shutouts. Penn State received a first-round bye and will face the winner of game two on Friday, Nov. 11 at noon.

Ohio State closed out its regular season with a 3-2-1 league record and enters the championship as the No. 2 seed. The Buckeyes will face seventh-seeded Northwestern in game three on Thursday at 2:30 p.m. Senior Kevin Nugent has scored seven goals this season, four in conference play and three total game-winners. Sophomore Xavier Balc is tied for first with four assists and a 0.67 assists per game average in league games only. Ohio State's defense is anchored by senior goalie Ray Burse Jr., who has 53 saves and four shutouts overall this year.

Defending national champion Indiana finished its regular season with a 2-1-3 mark in the conference and an overall record of 10-1-6. The Hoosiers were awarded the No. 3 spot in the upcoming championship and will face Wisconsin Thursday, Nov. 10 in game two set for 11:45 a.m. Indiana has recorded a total of 49 goals, 144 points, 46 assists and 11 shutouts which leads all other Big Ten teams. Junior Jacob Peterson and senior Brian Plotkin have scored a combined 17 goals, five in conference play, this season and will lead the Hoosier offense with the help of freshman Lee Nguyen who has recorded 11 total assists. Sophomore Chris Munroe has shut out eight opponents this year between the posts and will serve as a difficult obstacle for opposing offenses.

Fourth-seeded and defending Big Ten champion Michigan State finished the conference season with a 2-3-1 Big Ten record and will take the field at 9:00 a.m. in the first game of the championship against Michigan. The Spartan offense will be led by senior Ryan McMahen who is tied for second with eight total goals scored, has a 0.47 goals per game average and four assists. He leads the league in all games with four game-winning goals. Junior goalie Jason Tillman has recorded 66 saves this season, 30 in conference play while shutting out three league opponents. The junior will anchor a defense that has allowed only 15 goals this season.

Michigan tied with Wisconsin with a 2-4 Big Ten record but was awarded the No. 5 spot after defeating Wisconsin in head-to-head competition as it claimed victory over the Badgers, 4-2 on Oct. 23. The Wolverine offense that has scored seven goals, 21 points and tallied seven assists in league play will be led by senior Ryan Sterba and freshman Jake Stacy. Sterba is ranked eighth with five points, two goals, one game-winner and two assists while Stacy has two assists and four points. The Wolverines have posted 73 saves and five shutouts overall as it enters competition against Indiana Thursday.

The Wisconsin Badgers compiled 2-4 and 8-10 marks this season after scoring 26 total goals, recording 24 assists and leading all Big Ten teams with 90 saves in all games. Freshman Victor Diaz has been the driving force behind Wisconsin's offensive attack scoring seven goals, four in conference action and tallied 16 total points. The Badger defense has a one-two punch with goalies Jake Settle and Mike Hood. Settle leads the league with 72 saves and two shutouts in all games while Hood has recorded 16 saves and one shutout.

Northwestern rounds out the field of seven as the Wildcats finished 1-4-1 in the Big Ten and 9-6-2 overall. Brad North made a name for himself this year as he has scored eight of Northwestern's 25 total goals including three game-winners while sophomore David Roth and junior Gerardo Alvarez have combined for 10 assists overall. Goalies Misha Rosenthal and Will Briley have led the Wildcat defense with 31 saves each while Rosenthal has shutout three opponents and Briley has recorded two shutouts.