We'll be keeping tabs on four teams during the fall: men's soccer, women's soccer, field hockey and volleyball. We'll also have occasional updates on cross country, as well as winter sports (and even spring sports) like swimming (and tennis) that get underway during the fall.
Here is the third update of the season:
The Penn State Nittany Lions have long been known for their strong volleyball team; the Nittany Lions are the two-time defending national champions in the sport. So when visiting No. 3 Penn State came to Evanston last Saturday, it's fair to say expectations might have been low. In addition, most fans of Northwestern athletics were probably tuned in to a different game that day.
But while the football team was busy getting devoured by Wolverines, the volleyball team more than held its own against its own formidable opponent. They came out with a dramatic 3-2 victory, their most important of the season so far.
Their first victory over the Nittany Lions in more than a decade, the Wildcats alternated the first four sets with their opponents Saturday night, winning the first and third but dropping the second and fourth. After that, it all came down to the final set. Northwestern would not be denied, however, and emerged with a 15-12 victory in the fifth. The team has now won both of its five-set matches this year.
Sophomore Taylor Tashima continued her strong play, logging a match-high 52 assists and recording her sixth double-double of the season with 10 digs. Northwestern had another double-double on the stat sheet as well, when junior Kayla Morin recorded 15 kills and 14 digs.
This was an important victory, over a major powerhouse in the sport. Additionally, it comes on the heels of three consecutive straight-set losses for the Wildcats, making this win even more surprising. Although this is a major victory for a young team, it still only counts for one in the standings, where the Wildcats currently sit tied for seventh at 3-3 in Big Ten play. They will have a chance to continue their impressive play in the upcoming games, which include two against Purdue and Nebraska, both top teams in the conference.
The men's soccer team notched a huge overtime victory in College Park against Maryland, 2-1, before taking care of business against DePaul. In a rematch of last year's NCAA tournament game, Northwestern met SIU-Edwardsville over the weekend. Unfortunately, the outcome was the same as last year's: an SIU-Edwardsville victory. The Wildcats went down 2-0 and got a goal back, but could never get back to equal footing.
The team sits squarely in the middle of the Big Ten standings and has a chance to make some progress up the standings in their next few games — home dates with Rutgers, Notre Dame and Michigan State.
Last time we checked in with this team, they had achieved their first national ranking for the first time under head coach Michael Moynihan.
The bad news: they've lost two of three since then.
The good news: they're still ranked!
Despite losses to Penn State and Michigan, a win over Michigan State in East Lansing over the weekend has kept the Wildcats nationally ranked, No. 24 according to the most recent NSCAA poll. This has been on the back of a stellar defense, which recorded its ninth clean sheet of the season in the victory over the Spartan. Sophomore goalie Lauren Clem recored a season-best seven saves as well.
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This victory, the team's tenth, already surpasses their total from last year, with four games left to play in the regular season. They host Nebraska and Iowa this week before heading on the road to play Illinois and Wisconsin in their final two regular season games. Sitting fourth in the Big Ten, the Wildcats could certainly make some noise in the postseason.
Northwestern has a new fencing coach! After longtime coach Laurie Schiller decided to retire at the end of the 2015-16 season, athletic director Jim Phillips hired Zach Moss to take over the program. Inside NU reader Peter Elliot interviewed Moss.
Northwestern has gone 1-1 since we last checked in, in the midst of a three-game gauntlet of games against ranked opponents. The victory was over then-No. 18 Iowa in dominant fashion, 4-0, but the loss came in a heartbreaker to then-No. 9 Stanford in overtime, 3-2.
The team has managed to hang on to its national ranking however, coming in at No. 16 in the most recent poll.
The Wildcats are halfway through a four-game home stand, with No. 18 Michigan coming up this weekend, a big game against an opponent that sits above the Wildcats in the standings. After that, Michigan State comes to town. The team closes out the regular season with two games in Ohio, first against Ohio State and then vs. Ohio in Athens. The season finale is back home against Penn State the day before Halloween.