Big Ten Men's Soccer Teams Set for Championship
The Big Ten men's soccer teams are gearing up for the 2005 Big Ten Men's Soccer Championship, which will kick off on Thursday, November 10 at 9:00 a.m. at the Leonard B. Thomas Sports Complex on Northwestern University. Penn State has earned a bye with the top seed, while three quarterfinal games on Thursday will determine the rest of Friday's semifinal matchups, with the championship game to be played on Sunday at 11:00 a.m. The winner of Sunday's game will receive the Big Ten's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, with at-large bids also up for grabs all weekend.
No. 1 Penn State
A tumultuous non-conference schedule opened Penn State's 2005 campaign with a 0-5-1 record before two impressive victories over nationally-ranked teams turned its season in the right direction. A tough loss against UCLA, the fifth of the season, was followed by two straight wins over Cal State-Fullerton and then-No. 6 Maryland. Those win in mid-September was enough to turn Penn State's momentum, and since then have posted a record of 10-2-1, including a perfect 6-0-0 record in the Big Ten.
Penn State is led offensively by junior Simon Omekanda and freshman Jason Yeisley, who have combined to score 14 of the Lions' 23 goals this season, including three game winners apiece. In his second season as full-time starter, sophomore goalkeeper Conrad Taylor has anchored a defense that ranks second in the Big Ten in goals allowed and holds a goals against average of just 0.83.
Holding the midfield, senior captains David Walters and Brian Devlin are the experienced veterans who have led Penn State to a perfect Big Ten regular season. Walters has started every game for the Lions in his career, and both he and Devlin were named to All-Big Ten teams in 2004.
The top-seed Lions currently rank No. 14 nationally and have earned a first-round bye in the Championship. Penn State will open its campaign for the title on Friday at 11:45 a.m., and awaits its opponent, the winner of the Michigan-Michigan State quarterfinal.
Ohio State has earned the second seed in the championship for the second consecutive season, after tying Indiana for last year's regular season title and being knocked down by tiebreakers. The Buckeyes enter this year's championship with a 10-6-2 overall record, and a 3-2-1 record in the Big Ten.
All season Ohio State has been anchored by senior leadership from goalkeeper Ray Burse, Jr, defender Kyle Veris and forward Kevin Nugent. Burse, an All-Big Ten selection in 2004 has been the anchor of the Buckeye defense for the past three years, and currently holds a 1.17 goals against average. Leading the defense in front of Burse is Veris, who was a first-team All-Big Ten selection last season after moving to the back line from forward.
Nugent and sophomore teammate Xavier Balc each rank in the top 10 in the conference in goals and assists, with 18 and 17 points respectively. The scoring duties have not fallen solely on the two starting forwards however, with seven different Buckeyes have stepping up to score game-winners.
Ohio State's roster includes 17 players who were a part of last year's team, which advanced into the third round of the NCAA Tournament after receiving an at-large bid. In this year's Big Ten Championship, they are set to battle home team Northwestern in Thursday's quarterfinal at 2:15 p.m. The two teams met less than two weeks ago, with the Buckeyes coming out with a close 2-1 win at home.
The two-time defending national champion Hoosiers enter the Big Ten Championship as the third seed, but with a No. 2 national ranking. With its only loss of the season coming to Penn State, Indiana is entering the championship seeded out of the top two for the first time since 1995, when it was named co-champion. Indiana will be making its 14th appearance in the Championship and has won 10 times. Last year after receiving a first-round bye, the Hoosiers were ousted by eventual champion Michigan State in the semifinals.
From last year's national championship team, coach Mike Freitag returned eight starters and 15 letterwinners. Senior Brian Plotkin leads the Big Ten this season with eight goals and nine assists for 25 points. After scoring his fourth game-winner of the season against then-No. 1 Akron, the forward is the conference's reigning Offensive Player of the Week, earning the honor for the third time this season.
Defensively, Chris Munroe is in his first season as a full time starting goalkeeper and has proven to be up to the task. Through 18 games he holds a 0.70 goals against average and has eight shutouts. As a team, Indiana has outscored its opponents 31-3 in the second half due in part to a strong back line, which is anchored by 2004 All-Conference selection Jed Zayner.
Indiana has a scheduled first-round tilt against sixth-seeded Wisconsin, a team they beat 5-2 in regular season play. The Hoosiers and Badgers will kick off on Thursday at 11:45 a.m., with the winner advancing to play on Friday against the winner of the Ohio State-Northwestern quarterfinal.
The reigning Big Ten Champion Michigan State Spartans enter the 2005 Championship as the fourth seed, which is one seed higher than they began the 2004 campaign. Their road to through the tournament included a 2-1 win over No. 1 Indiana in the semifinals and a championship game victory over Northwestern.
With 19 points, senior Ryan McMahen leads the Spartan offense again this season after being named first team All-Big Ten and Offensive Player of the Championship in 2004. Not far behind McMahen is freshman Doug DeMartin, who is second on the team with six goals and three assists for 15 points in his first season. McMahen and classmate Steve Doster are tied for the team with three game-winning goals apiece.
Behind the ball, goalkeeper Jason Tillman was named Defensive Player of the Big Ten Tournament after allowing only one goal in the Spartans' three games. Now in his second year as a starter, Tillman has recorded six shutouts and holds a 0.77 goals against average. In front of him will be Greg Janicki, who has started every game for the past two years, and Rauwshan McKenzie who was named to the Big Ten All-Freshman team in 2004.
Michigan State will be after its second consecutive championship, and will challenge rival Michigan in the quarterfinal round on Thursday at 9:00 a.m.
No. 5 Michigan
The Wolverines posted a 2-4 Big Ten record this season to earn the fifth seed of the championship tournament, and will face off against Michigan State on Thursday morning. A pair of senior forwards, Ryan Alexander and Trai Blanks, lead Michigan's offensive attack into the 2005 Big Ten Championship with four goals apiece. The pair is aided by the strong midfield play of freshman Jake Stacy, and co-captains Adam Bruh and Ryan Sterba who are all tied for the team lead in assists. Five different players have scored game-winning goals for the Wolverines, with Blanks leading the way with three.
Michigan's back line is reinforced by senior goalkeeper Peter Dzubay, who earned first-team All-Big Ten honors as a sophomore and All-Tournament honors as a junior. Dzubay carries five shutouts into the championship for the third consecutive season and has a 1.24 goals against average. In front of Dbuzay is a defense captained by junior Kevin Hall, and includes freshmen Chase Tennant and Michael Holody.
In regular season action, Michigan was beaten by Michigan State, 2-0. Their quarterfinal matchup is slated for 9:00 a.m. on Thursday, with the winner advancing to Friday's semifinal to face the winner of the Indiana-Wisconsin quarterfinal. Last season, Michigan entered the tournament as the seventh seed, and upset Ohio State in the first round before being eliminated by Northwestern in the semifinal round. The Wolverines advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 2004 after receiving an at-large bid.
The Wisconsin Badgers enter this weekend's tournament with the sixth seed, after winning the battle for seeding with Northwestern by beating them less than a week ago. Freshman Victor Diaz scored the game-winner against the Wildcats with his team-leading seventh goal of the year. The first year forward ranks among the top 10 in the conference in goals and points. Sophomores Eric Ortega and Christopher Ede are tied for the team lead in assists.
The Badgers are young all over the field. In the back, junior Jake Settle has earned the starting goalkeeping job for the first year, and posted a goals against average of 1.63. In front of Settle is a young defense and midfield that includes B.J. Goodman and Nick Caronna, who joined Ortega on the Big Ten All-Freshman team in 2004. Junior Aaron Hohlbein brings a lot of experience to the team, and also earned postseason honors in 2004 for his work in the midfield.
Last season Wisconsin was ousted from the tournament in the first round by eventual-champion Michigan State by a score of 1-0. The Badgers will begin their 2005 championship campaign against Indiana in Thursday's 11:45 a.m. quarterfinal. The winner of that game will face the winner of the Ohio State-Northwestern quarterfinal in Friday's semifinal matchup.
No. 7 Northwestern
Northwestern will serve as host for this year's Big Ten Championships for the first time since 1998. In 2004 as the third-seed, Northwestern topped Penn State in quarterfinal action before putting out the offensive performance of the championship and scoring five goals against Michigan to advance to the final. The Wildcats eventually lost to Michigan State in the championship game, but advanced to their first NCAA Tournament with an at-large bid.
Junior Brad North is having a breakout year for the Wildcats, as he has scored eight goals on the year, including three game-winners. Joining him on the front line is team captain Geraldo Alvarez who has contributed 11 points of his own. Defensively for Northwestern, goalkeepers Misha Rosenthal and David Roth have split time this season, and each made 31 saves, while Rosenthal has shutout three opponents in his freshman campaign and Roth has shutout two. In the midfield, John Carlstedt and Adam Sirois lead the team in assists.
By earning the seventh seed with a 1-4-1 conference record, Northwestern will face second-seeded Ohio State in the final quarterfinal match of Thursday, scheduled for 2:15 p.m. The winner of that game will go on to face the winner of the Indiana-Wisconsin quarterfinal.