Andy Fleming takes his Musketeers to face No. 20 Northwestern this weekend.
Aug. 24, 2012
CINCINNATI - The Xavier men's soccer team and two-time defending Atlantic 10 Champions will take on the defending Big Ten Champions and No. 20 Northwestern to begin the 2012 regular season. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. ET on Saturday from Lakeside Field in Evanston, Ill.
Saturday's match marks the fifth time the two clubs have faced one another. Last year the Wildcats bested the Musketeers, 2-0, in head coach Andy Fleming's return. Fleming was the top assistant at Northwestern for three years prior to being named the Xavier head coach.
All 11 starters return for the Musketeers who posted a 12-5-4 overall record and 4-3-2 mark in the conference last year. In total, Xavier's returning players account for 26 of 31 goals and 35 of 37 assists from last year. The program also returns its defensive unit that posted school records for goals against average and goals allowed for a second-consecutive year.
Among the top returning players are goal scorers senior forward Luke Spencer (7g, 6a), junior midfielder Gino De Paoli (6g, 7a), junior defender Nick Hagglund (1g, 3a), and senior goalkeeper Justin Marshall (0.89 GAA). Hagglund has earned numerous preseason honors this year, including being named to the Missouri Athletic Club (MAC) Hermann Trophy Watch List.
The Musketeers went 0-1-1 in their exhibition schedule with a 1-1 draw against Marquette and 1-0 setback against Norte Dame. Xavier was picked second in the coaches' preseason poll and are looking to become just the third active team to win three-straight postseason championships.
Xavier received its highest preseason poll ranking on Wednesday when it was chosen 22nd by Soccer America. They were ranked 25th by College Soccer News, 35th by TopDrawerSoccer.com and College Sports Madness, and received votes in the NSCAA poll.
Northwestern, the Big Ten regular-season and postseason champion, was picked by the league's coaches to repeat in 2012. NU returns a core of players from last year's 11-5-5 squad including sophomore goalkeeper Tyler Miller (0.86 GAA), senior midfielder Chris Ritter (4g, 2a), junior midfielder Lepe Seetane (5g, 3a), and sophomore midfielder Nikko Boxall (2g). The Wildcats were bounced from the NCAA Tournament by Akron last season.