While our football team was busy giving NUHighlights some work to do on a Saturday night — man, I've missed those highlight videos — our other fall sports teams were doing some winning and losing of their own, mostly winning! Our men's soccer team is closing in on a Big Ten title, the volleyball team looks to be gaining some momentum, the field hockey and women's soccer teams are gearing up for their conference tournaments, and cross country looks ahead to the NCAA regionals.
Let's get right into the recaps:
Men's Soccer: With just one game left, NU has a chance to win its first ever regular season Big Ten title. NU is 9-4-4 overall, 3-0-1 in the Big Ten, and in the "also receiving votes" category of the latest top-25 poll.
The turnaround has been dramatic. NU opened the season a lackluster 2-3-1 against a not-too-rigorous schedule. Since then, though, the team has gone...well, you can do the math: 7-1-3. The Wildcats are riding an eight-game unbeaten streak, including last weekend's 2-2 tie against No. 10 Indiana. Senior Oliver Kupe won Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week for his 1 G, 1 A effort against Indiana, which included the game-tying goal with just over five minutes left in regulation. Kupe ranks third in the Big Ten in goals, with seven, while Kyle Schickel is tied for second in the conference in assists, with six. Goalkeeper Tyler Miller is second in the Big Ten in goals against average, allowing just 0.76 goals per game.
The Wildcats take on Michigan on the road Saturday. Ohio State, just above NU in the standings at 4-1-0, takes on Indiana on Saturday. NU can clinch the regular season title and No. 1 seed in the Big Ten tournament with a win and an OSU loss or tie, or a tie and an OSU loss.
Field Hockey: A season that began so promisingly now hangs in the balance, as the Wildcats open up the Big Ten tournament against No. 9 Penn State on Thursday. NU, still somehow ranked in the latest poll at No. 20, finished the regular season 12-8 overall, 1-5 in the loaded Big Ten. The Wildcats will be the sixth seed at the conference tourney; host Penn State is the third seed. No. 7 Michigan, which won the regular season title for the second straight year, is the top seed.
Last Friday, with head coach Tracey Fuchs in Mexico helping guide the US national team at the Pan-American games, the Wildcats dropped a 3-1 game to No. 17 Ohio State. But NU then closed out the regular season on Saturday with a 1-0 win against nonconference foe Louisville.
NU will look to get leading scorer Chelsea Armstrong back on track; she's been kept off the score sheet the last three games. Her conference-leading 24 goals are 44% of NU's total scoring output of 55 goals. Regan Mooney leads the Big Ten in assists with 19.
Volleyball: There's life in our Wildcats yet, folks. NU had a huge week, first upsetting No. 15 Minnesota in straight sets on Friday, then beating Wisconsin in a thriller, 3-2, on Saturday. NU now has a three-match winning streak, with Indiana, winless in the conference, on tap next.
No doubt, NU still has a lot of work to do to make up lost ground, with a 13-10 record overall, 4-8 in the Big Ten. Still eight matches left, though.
Redshirt freshman Katie Dutchman was once again the star, garnering Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week and Freshman of the Week honors for the third straight week. Dutchman, a middle blocker, leads the Big Ten with 120 blocks, including 47 in her last six matches, coinciding with her Player of the Week run. Sophomore Stephanie Holtus continues her strong play, as well, leading the team with 19 kills against Wisconsin and 14 against Minnesota.
The Wildcats take on Indiana on Friday and then No. 11 Purdue on Saturday, both games on the road. While nothing is yet a must-win game, NU's hopes of making the postseason would be really dented with one loss and just about on life support with two losses.
Cross Country: Led by second-team All-Big Ten runner Audrey Huth, NU placed eighth at the Big Ten championships this past weekend at Illinois, making this the Wildcats' best showing at the conference meet since 2002. Michigan State won the title.
Huth, a junior, finished 10th individually and is NU's first All-Big Ten runner since 2002. She finished the 6K course in 20:38. Sophomore Lexie Goldsmith was NU's second-best finisher in 38th place, with a time of 21:11, while senior Rachel Kaminski finished 50th in 21:28.
NU takes the week off from competition before heading to Northern Illinois on Nov. 12 for the NCAA Midwest Regionals.
Women's Soccer: Pity the Michigan Wolverines. They finished in eighth place in the conference with a 4-6-1 record and ought to be participating in the eight-team Big Ten tournament, with a chance to qualify for the NCAA tournament. But instead, our last-place Wildcats are in, despite a 1-9-1 record, thanks to the lucky happenstance of hosting the Big Ten tourney, which kicks off tomorrow.
The Wildcats meekly closed out the regular season on Saturday, with a 2-0 loss to Michigan State. Barring a monumental upset, NU should be easy first-round fodder for No. 11 Penn State, which won its 14th straight regular season title and is 17-3-0 overall, 10-1-0 in the Big Ten. (In case you're wondering, no, we were not Penn State's lone conference loss.)
While it's no fun to see our Wildcats struggle, the silver lining is that this is a very young team, and hopefully what doesn't kill them will make them stronger next year.