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.
Here is the fifth update of the season:
The women's soccer team is dancing. For the first time since 1998, the team will be playing in the NCAA Tournament, the selection committee announced Monday. Northwestern will play Saturday evening in Pullman, Washington against Washington State in the first-ever meeting between the two programs.
The team was understandably overjoyed at the news, and this marks another positive step for coach Michael Moynihan, who took over a moribund program three years ago. The postseason birth is all the more impressive given the team's challenging situation at their home field: due to ongoing renovations, the team did not play a single home game on-campus. In addition, all their training was off-campus as well. But the team did not let these trying circumstances get to them and instead thrived, going 13-5-2 overall and 7-3-1 in the Big Ten, a tough conference.
This team thrived on defensive prowess and on beating inferior opponents. Sophomore keeper Lauren Clem set a program record with 11 shoutouts, including an impressive three straight to close out the regular season. The team's goals-against-average of .531 ranks eighth nationally. Northwestern did not lose to a single opponent ranked outside the top 45 of the RPI, meaning the Wildcats got the job done when expected.
This Saturday should provide an exciting matchup. Washington State went 14-5-0 overall and 6-4-0 in conference play to finish third overall in the Pac-12. They have a prolific attacker in Kaitlin Johnson who leads the team with 20 points on seven goals and six assists. But if there is one thing we know about this Wildcats team, it is that they come to play defensively.
Northwestern's field hockey team ended its season similar to how it began: with a loss to a top-10 opponent. In the former's case, it was falling to then-No. 1 Connecticut 4-1 at home; in the latter, No. 7 Maryland ended the Wildcats' season with a narrow victory, 2-1 in double-overtime, in the Big Ten tournament semifinals.
The team will not be disappointed with their season, going 13-8 overall and 4-4 in a competitive conference. But they will perhaps rue their missed chances, going 0-7 in games decided by one goal. If the team goes even 3-4, their overall record jumps to 16-5, a very impressive number. Simple regression to the mean would indicate next year could be a very good year for field hockey at Northwestern.
After dominating Ohio State (again), the team was surely confident heading into last Friday's semifinal matchup with the Terrapins. They looked the part early, scoring first, shortly after the break. They controlled their destiny at that point but a Buckeye goal with 10 minutes to play spoiled any thoughts the Wildcats had of advancing to the final.
A scoreless first overtime closely mirrored the original first half before Lein Holsboer's goal less than two minutes into the second overtime ended the contest and the Wildcats' season.
Much like the last time we checked in, in the interim the volleyball team has gone 1-3, this time beating a Michigan State team ahead of them in the standings.
We ended last update on the volleyball team suggesting an anticipated match at home against a ranked opponent may be what the Wildcats needed to get back on track, but the team came out flat and disappointed in a 3-0 sweep by the then-No. 25 Wolverines.
Although they bounced back the very next day to beat the Spartans, time is running out for this team to prove it belongs in postseason play. Beating Penn State has perhaps proven to be negative on the team; since that historic victory, the team has gone 2-6 and tumbled in the standings.
Tonight, the team has another chance to get back on track, hosting No. 4 Minnesota in Welsh-Ryan Arena. We shall see if they respond better than the last time.
The men's soccer team's season is over, courtesy of Rutgers in the first round of the Big Ten tournament.
The Wildcats were the 5 seed in the always tricky 4 vs. 5 matchup and Rutgers proved too much to handle, scoring a goal in each half to win comfortably, 2-0. The loss gives the Wildcats a final record of 7-9-2, their first below .500 finish since 2002. The team did manage to go 4-4-0 in conference play, good enough for a tie in third place.
The Wildcats were the better team in the first half against the Scarlet Knirghts, and were unlucky to into the break down a goal, with keeper Zak Allen saving a free kick that forced him from the net before the rebound found a Rutgers' player in the right place at the right time to slot home the finish.
The team almost tied the game early in the second half, but were unable to finish the job, before a late Rutgers goal put the game out of reach. Graduating seniors include Joey Calistri, who finishes his career with 30 goals, good for second best in program history.