Every other week during the fall sports season, we'll be providing updates on Northwestern's non-revenue sports. All are understandably overshadowed by football, as they run side-by-side with the most popular college sport. But some of these other Wildcat teams excel outside of the spotlight.
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.
The big non-revenue sport news this week is that wrestling coach Drew Pariano and the program have parted ways.
Other than that, here is the fourth update of the season:
The field hockey team has had a nice run of games since our last update, dropping a double-overtime affair to a then-No. 14 Michigan — a team that has only lost three games all season and is in the midst of an eight game winning streak — before rattling off three straight wins, including one in Columbus over Ohio State, 2-0.
Their most recent victory also came in Athens, Oh. over Ohio University, 4-2. Dominique Masters, a junior from Canterbury, England, continued her impressive play this season, netting her second hat trick of the campaign to help the Wildcats recover from a 2-1 deficit at the half to take control of the game. Masters is the team's second leading scorer on the year, with her most recent effort bringing her total to a robust 13, behind only fellow junior Isabel Flens' 15.
The team only has one more remaining regular season game, a home date with Penn State Friday afternoon before postseason play starts with the Big Ten tournament. Northwestern currently sits tied for third in the conference with Ohio State and Indiana. Ohio State's only remaining game is at Michigan, so conventional thinking would give the Wolverines the edge there. But Indiana owns the tiebreaker with Northwestern and plays lowly Rutgers in their season finale, so the Wildcats could be looking at a 4 seed for the tournament.
Last time we checked in with this team, they were coming off an incredible victory over powerhouse Penn State; since then, things have not gone so well: the Wildcats have beaten a subpar Iowa team, currently last in the Big Ten, but have dropped three other contests.
Their most recent two losses have been sweeps at the hands of Purdue and Indiana. Purdue is a quality team, one that has been ranked most of the season and currently sits fourth in the competitive Big Ten. To boot, the game was in West Lafayette; that loss is understandable.
But the loss to Indiana hurts. Even with the head-to-head victory over the Wildcats, the Hoosiers still sit lower in the Big Ten standings. The first set was competitive, but the Wildcats could not muster any energy in the second. They fell behind early in the third and, despite mounting a valiant comeback effort, it was not enough and they fell in straight sets. In the middle of the pack in the Big Ten, every game counts, and a win would have put the team in solid position heading into Friday's important tilt with No. 25 Michigan. The game is in Welsh-Ryan Arena. Perhaps the friendly confines of their home arena will right whatever is wrong with the Wildcats.
An up-and-down season has been just that since our last update, with the men's soccer team going 1-1-2 in the interim. While all four have been played in the Chicago-area, the strength of the teams faced in the past two weeks has been tremendous.
A 4-2 loss to Big Ten-leading Rutgers started things off. The Wildcats then recovered to draw then-No. 8 Notre Dame in a hard fought game that went into double overtime. Given Notre Dame's strong program, that draw can almost be chalked up as a victory, especially with the Wildcats needing to fight back to secure the point after falling behind in the first half.
After that, the Wildcats beat a tough Michigan State team 1-0 on an 89th-minute winner, but were shut out by Loyola, 2-0, on Tuesday. The coaching staff was not happy with the team's effort, something they'll look to correct heading into the pivotal end-of-season matchups.
Before the Loyola game, senior goalkeeper Zak Allen was honored as the Big Ten's Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts in holding powerful Notre Dame to a lone goal and shutting out Michigan State.
In the top half of a competitive, fairly even Big Ten, Northwestern is sitting pretty, especially if they take care of business the rest of the way, with a game in State College against Penn State before finishing the season in Columbus taking on the Buckeyes. Both teams sit below the Wildcats in the standings so this would seem a good opportunity to pad the win column. After that, it is on to the Big Ten Tournament, where the Wildcats could go in with some momentum and look to make some noise.
The women's soccer team has been on an impressive run as of late, winning two and dropping only one since we last checked in. Their lone loss came in a fluky game against an inferior opponent, Nebraska, who was able to notch an early goal against the run of play and then held on for dear life for a 1-0 win.
The team's past two results have been much more impressive, and more indicative of their true talent level. On Senior Day, Northwestern demolished an overmatched Iowa team, winning 4-0, with the four goals coming from four different players. It was the most goals ever scored against a Big Ten opponent for this team's seniors. They dominated wire-to-wire, outshooting the Hawkeyes 20-2.
The next match, NU's penultimate of the season, was also a shutout, the team's 11th of the season. Co-captain and senior Niki Sebo scored and junior Addie Steiner notched a goal in the 2-0 win. The coaching staff was happy to secure such a result on the road, and it's a win that sets Northwestern up well for the regular season finale Wednesday night against Wisconsin in Madison. Wisconsin, currently first in the Big Ten, will be a useful barometer for the team as it heads into the Big Ten tournament. A victory in Madison would surely give the team a nice boost heading into postseason play.