We got a Big Ten championship!
While our football team was busy tackling Rex Burkhead in the backfield again and again, our other fall sports were doing some winning and losing of their own. Our men's soccer team clinched the Big Ten regular season title, field hockey and women's soccer saw their seasons end, volleyball keeps plugging away, and cross country gears up for NCAAs. Some of our winter sports have also begun action, but we'll start focusing on those next week.
Let's get to the recaps.
Men's Soccer: A 1-0 win over Michigan on Sunday gave the Wildcats their first-ever Big Ten regular season title, and now NU will be the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament, which begins Wednesday in Ann Arbor. NU (10-4-4 overall, 4-0-2 Big Ten) is now riding a nine-game unbeaten streak (7-0-2).
The Wildcats were in that "also receiving votes" category in last week's poll, so it'll be interesting to see where the team will be ranked when this week's poll comes out tomorrow. NU ought to be in solid position to make its first NCAA tournament in three years.
The win over Michigan was all the more impressive, given that NU was playing without leading scorer Oliver Kupe, who had to miss the match after receiving his fifth yellow card of the season in the previous game. Chris Ritter scored the game-winning goal with under seven minutes remaining, earning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honors.
Volleyball: The Wildcats extended their winning streak to four, with a 3-0 victory over Indiana on Friday, then promptly saw the streak end, with a 3-0 loss to No. 11 Purdue on Saturday. NU's record now stands at 14-11 overall, 5-9 in conference, with six matches left. NU probably has at least five of those, maybe four, in order to have a shot at making the NCAA tournament. The Wildcats' RPI stood at 78 on Oct. 31, the latest rankings available. Sixty-four teams make the tournament.
The road will not be easy. NU next hosts No. 22 Ohio State on Friday, and then on Saturday, the Wildcats host No. 6 Penn State, who just happen to be the four-time defending national champs.
Field Hockey: NU finished its season with a 6-1 loss in the first round of the Big Ten tournament on Thursday to Penn State, which went on to win its fifth straight tournament title. The Wildcats finished 12-9 overall, 1-5 in the Big Ten. While the end to the season was sour, head coach Tracey Fuchs' rebuilding of the program took some very positive steps forward this season. NU had its third straight winning record, which hasn't happened since 1996. Along the way, the Wildcats knocked off No. 8 America, No. 11 California, No. 18 Virginia and No. 7 New Hampshire. NU rose to as high as No. 14 in the NFHCA coaches poll, the highest ranking it has earned since 1996.
Junior Chelsea Armstrong was voted the Big Ten's Offensive Player of the Year, rightfully so after leading the league in goals (24) and points (55). Armstrong has been the Big Ten's leading scorer all three years she has been on campus, and earlier this year, she became the Wildcats' all-time points leader and all-time leading goal-scorer. Sophomore midfielder Nikki Parsley also earned first-team All-Big Ten honors, after scoring 10 goals. Senior forward Regan Mooney was named to the second team, with a league-leading 19 assists.
Cross Country: The Wildcats had the week off from competition and will travel to Northern Illinois for the NCAA Midwest regionals on Saturday.
Women's Soccer: The Wildcats' season of woe came to an end Wednesday, in a first-round loss to Penn State, 3-0, in the Big Ten tournament, which Illinois won. NU finishes 2-16-1 overall, 1-9-1 in the Big Ten. Sophomore defender Nicole Jewell was named to the Big Ten All-Tournament team. Onward and upward.