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Fall sports: Weekend wrap, 10/25

While our football team was showing off the latest in neon purple fashions, our other fall sports were doing some winning and losing of their own. Our mens soccer team kept on rolling — first place in the Big Ten! — while field hockey continued a disappointing conference slide (highlights above nonwithstanding), volleyball got a much-needed win, women’s soccer was unable to stop its slump and cross country saw its backups dominate.

Let’s get to the recaps.

Men’s Soccer: NU faced Wisconsin on Saturday in a battle of the top two teams in the Big Ten, and it was the Wildcats who came away with a 1-0 win. Junior midfielder Nick Gendron scored the game-winning goal in the second half off a corner kick, while goalkeeper Tyler Miller — just a freshman! — notched his eighth shutout, putting him second on NU’s single-season list and tying him for fifth in all-time NU shutouts. For those efforts, Gendron was named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week, while Miller was named Big Ten Co-Defensive Player of the Week.

The win improved the Wildcats to 8-4-3 overall, 3-0-1 in the Big Ten, all alone atop the conference standings. NU is now riding a six-game unbeaten streak, with just three games left before the Big Ten tournament. The Wildcats will take on D-III Rockford College at home in a non-conference game on Thursday, before a huge match against No. 10 Indiana in the home finale on Sunday. The Hoosiers are the only Big Ten team ranked in the NSCAA top 25 this week.

Field Hockey: After an easy 5-0 thumping of Pacific on Friday, NU found Big Ten play to be tough sledding once again, with a 5-2 loss to No. 11 Iowa on Sunday. The loss dropped NU to 11-7 overall, 1-4 Big Ten, with just two games left before the conference tournament. Despite losing four out of its last five games, the Wildcats managed to remain in the NFHCA top 20 this week, albeit just barely, coming in at No. 20. 

On the bright side, the win over Pacific did clinch the Wildcats' third consecutive winning season. Head coach Tracey Fuchs wasn't even there to enjoy it, as she was busy managing the US national team at the Pan American Games in Mexico. Sophomore Nikki Parsley had a solid weekend, with two goals against Pacific and one goal against Iowa. Leading scorer Chelsea Armstrong also had two goals against Pacific, but was shut out against Iowa. 

NU will have some work to do if it wants to make the 16-team NCAA tournament field. The Wildcats will take on No. 17 Ohio State at home on Friday and then finish the regular season with a home match against non-conference foe Louisville on Sunday. Then comes the Big Ten tournament, which will be a challenge, with four conference teams besides NU ranked in the top 20, led by No. 7 Michigan.

Volleyball: After falling to Illinois in straight sets, 3-0, on Wednesday, the Wildcats picked up their second Big Ten victory of the season on Saturday, sweeping Iowa on the road, 3-0. The win broke a five-game losing skid, bringing NU's record to 11-10 overall, 2-8 in conference. To be fair, just as with the field hockey team, NU's struggles have come against a loaded conference slate, as the Big Ten is a dominant power in both sports.

Seven Big Ten teams are ranked in the AFCA top 25 this week, including No. 1 Nebraska and No. 3 Illinois, as well as four-time defending national champ No. 8 Penn State. The schedule doesn't get any easier for the Wildcats, as they'll face No. 15 Minnesota on Friday and then Wisconsin on Saturday. Both matches will be at home. 

Redshirt freshman middle blocker Katie Dutchman was named Big Ten Co-Defensive Player of the Week and Co-Freshman of the Week for her performances against Iowa and Illinois, making this the second week in a row she has won both honors. She had 15 blocks in the two matches, and currently leads the Big Ten with 58 blocks in conference play, for an average of 1.53 per set.

Women's Soccer: The beat goes on for the Wildcats, with two losses last week: a 3-0 shutout to No. 25 Illinois, and a 6-1 pasting by Iowa. Sophomore Kate Allen scored her team-leading fifth goal of the season against Iowa, which is just about the only positive development to write about for the week.

The Wildcats are now 2-14-1 overall, 1-8-1 in the Big Ten, firmly in the basement of the conference standings. In a week, NU will get to host the Big Ten tournament, which is pretty much the only way it could have qualified, given that usually only the top eight teams get to participate. The Wildcats do have one regular season game remaining, the home finale against Michigan State on Saturday.

Cross Country: Given the weak field at last weekend's Illini Open, the Wildcats decided to give their top runners a break and give some of their other runners a chance to compete and qualify for this weekend's Big Ten championships. Even with their backups in the field, NU easily took first place in the four-team meet, placing seven runners in the top 10.

The Wildcats were led by sophomore Michelle Moriset, who ran her 5k in 18:30, good for second place. Sophomore Julia Buford took third with a time of 18:35, while junior Janelle Li-A-Ping placed fourth at 18:42.