Northwestern 2017 Team and Recruiting Class Review

School:  Northwestern
Conference:  Big Ten
Coach: Tim Lenahan - Seventeenth Season  
2016 Record: 6-11-1 overall - 3-4-1 in conference  
Final Season Ending National Rank:  N/A

Five Year Win Total:

2012:  13

2013:  10

2014:  9

2015:  7

2016:  6

Key Losses from the 2016 Team:  Defenders Nathan Dearth (1g, 0a) and Willis Griffith, midfielders Jeffrey Hopson (3g, 1a) Brandon Medina (4g, 1a) and Drew Rosenberg (0g, 1a), forwards Mike Roberge (2g, 3a) and Getenet Tuji due to graduation.  
2016 Goals Scored and Goals Allowed:  fifteen goals scored - twenty-six allowed.
Key 2016 Statistic: Northwestern tallied a total of fifteen goals.  . 

Background:  Northwestern was 6-11-1 overall in 2016 with a 3-4-1 mark in conference play.

The Wildcats have made a total of nine appearances in the NCAA Tournament, all of which have come under direction of Tim Lenahan. Northwestern has appeared in the NCAA Tournament in 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.

The Wildcats won the Big Ten regular and tournament titles in 2012 and the Big Ten regular season title in 2012.

Midfielder Mattias Tomasino was named to the All-Big Ten 2017 Freshman Team.  

Number Starters Returning:  Six 

Offense: The Wildcats netted a total of fifteen goals in 2016.  Seven players scored a goal last year. Ten of the fifteen goals were scored by players who have graduated.

Only three players return who found the back of the net last year. There clearly is a need and opportunity for improvement in offensive productivity heading into the 2017 campaign.

The graduation of forward Mike Roberge (2g, 3a) and midfielders Jeffrey Hopson (3g, 1a), and Brandon Median (4g, 1a) create gaps that must be filled on the offensive side of the ball.  

Senior Elo Ozumba (3g, 1a) who started fifteen contests last year is the key returning goal scorer. Ozumba and sophomores Ty Seager who appeared in fifteen contests in 2016 with one start and Matt Moderwell who particiapted in ten games last year with two starts look to be among key returning forwards who will be counted upon for offensive productivity. All three are excellent athletes. The unanswered question is whether or not they will be able to effectively utilize their athleticism to create and finish scoring opportunities in the box. .

A solid group of midfielders return led by junior Camden Buescher (0g, 3a) and sophomores Mattias Tomasino (1g, 0a) and Sean Lynch (0g, 1a).  Senior Sam Forsgren (0g, 1a), juniors Shannon Seymour (1g, 0a), and Emmett Gordon and sophomore Mac Mazzola are among other returning midfielders who look to be in the mix.

Fifth year senior transfer Rouven Wahlfeldt from UNCG looks to be a good addition in the defensive midfielder role. Wahfeldt will arrive in Evanston with three years of starting experience at UNCG under his belt.  

Freshmen Drew Viscomi and Tommy Katsylannis are among the newcomers who could add depth to the midfield.     

Defense: Northwestern will be without the service of backs Nathan Dearth (1g, 0a) who was a team captain and three-year starter and Willis Griffith who was a starter last year.

Seniors Riley Kelliher (0g, 2a) and John Moderwell and sophomore Andrew McLeod, are among returning defenders who were starters last year. Senior Camden Marden, and juniors Jake Roberge and Ben Miller are among other returning backs who look to be in the hunt for a greater role in 2017. Freshman center back Garrett Opperman could push for playing time. 

Senior Francisco Tomasino who was the starter last year and juniors Robbie White who saw action in two games and Braden Thuraisingham who appeared in four contests in 2016 return in goal.

Freshman Miha Miskovic is a highly regarded recruit who will also be in the mix for the starting job between the pipes. 

Newcomers:

Coach Lenahan stated, "I really like the balance of this class. We have added a top goalkeeper, three very good attacking players and a solid defensive midfielder and a left footed central defender." Lenahan added, "We have cast our net nationwide to come up with players from California, Minnesota, and Tennessee, while adding two local players from Glenview and Norridge, Illinois." 

Spencer Howard - Forward - Pacific Palisades, California - Palisades Charter High School - Played for Real So Cal. 2014 through 2016. Named All-Western League First Team. Led High School Team in scoring and assists in 2017 and 2017. 

Tommy Katsiyiannis - Midfielder - Eden Prairie, Minnesota - Eden Prairie High School - Played for Minnesota Thunder Development Academy U-14 through U-18. Invited to U-18 National Team Domestic Camp in 2016. 

Miha Miskovic - Goalkeeper - Zemun, Serbia - Ridgewood - Played for FK Altina and FK Zemun through U-15. Played for Chicago Magic PSG U-16 through U-18. 

Garrett Opperman - Defender - Minneapolis, Minnesota - Breck School - Four-year starter at Breck School. NSCAA All-Region. All-State First Team. All-Conference. Played for Minneapolis United U-12 through U-19. 

Alex Reneau - Midfielder - Glenview, Illinois - Laurel Springs School - Played for AD Alcorcon in Madrid. Played for Chicago Magic PSG U-18. 

Drew Viscomi - Midfielder - Lookout Mountain, Tennessee - McCallie School -  Four-year starter at McCallie School. Conference Player of the Year. Three-time First Team All-State. Played for Nashville FC U-16 through U-19. Played with Tennessee State ODP Team.  

Max Silberg - Midfielder - Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania - Kiski Prep - Netted fourteen goals and contributed seven assists his senior season at Kiski Prep. Played for Century United. 

Rouven Wahlfeldt - Midfielder - Velbert, Germany - A senior transfer from UNCG where he was a starter for three seasons. Scored two goals and contributed two assists in 2016 for the Spartans. 

Progonosis for 2017:  Tim Lenahan has established a winning tradition at Northwestern. He no doubt knows what it takes to win at the highest level. Nonethesless the Wildcats have struggled for the past two seasons by their own standards and have been AWOL from the NCAA Tournament field..

It is likely just a matter of time before Northwestern under Lenahan's direction rebounds and gets back into the Big Ten title race and begins to make their presence felt once again on the national scene. However, whether or not they can do that in 2017 remains to be seen. The to-do list heading into the 2017 campaign for an increase in Northwestern's win total is fairly large.

The success that Northwestern has enjoyed in the past has been linked to tenacious play on the defensive side of the ball combined with a productive and balanced attack.

Last year Northwestern scored a total of fiften goals while allowing twenty-six. Clearly improvement on both sides of the ball is needed in order to reverse that crucial ratio and for things to return to normal in Evanston. It's pretty simple. If Northwestern can't get that fixed, they will experience another challenging season in 2017 without a significant increase in their win total.  

Accomplishing that is made more difficult due to the level of play in the Big Ten and the degree of difficulty of Northwestern's non-conference slate. The difference between winning and losing at the highest level is slight. Injuries and a miss here and there on the recruiting trail can take an immediate toll on the win total of a team.

Northwestern will enter the 2017 campaign in rebuild mode. There are several keys to turning things around in 2017. The first is the ability of the seniors to set the pace and play to their potential. This is a senior class that was viewed as as one of the top ten recruiting classes in the country when they arrived on campus as freshmen.

Other critical success factors on the to-do list include the ability of a few of the newcomers to quickly adjust to the rigors of Big Ten play and make an immediate contribution. In addition, a few playmakers must emerge to jump start the attack and last but not least the Wildcats must have Big Ten level play between the pipes to anchor the defense.    

It is a good sign that the Wildcats rebounded down the home stretch last year to secure wins over Rutgers, Notre Dame and Penn State. During that period of time Northwestern showed a lot of grit as a team and avoided the lapses and inconsistency in play that hampered them earlier in the season.

The potential exists for Northwestern to return to their customary status as an NCAA Tournament team and Big Ten contender in 2017. However, the bottom line is that a lot of things will have to fall into place in order for that to occur.  

A few good wins early on in the 2017 season would be a huge first step and a real momentum builder.