DURHAM, N.C. - Within ten minutes, Kassidy Gorman delivered everything Northwestern needed to advance in the NCAA Tournament.
After Kaitlin Moore split the SIU-Edwardsville defense with a long pass over the top, Gorman raced to the ball and managed to poke it into the net, giving Northwestern a critical 1-0 advantage. With Northwestern’s resolute defense giving SIU-Edwardsville almost nothing to work with all day, the early opening goal provided enough for the Wildcats to advance into the Round of 16 behind a dominant performance.
Northwestern followed up on its dream start with sustained pressure in the first half. Gorman had another great chance soon after her first goal and blasted a shot from inside the area at the SIU goal. However, SIU-Edwardsville’s goalkeeper Juli Rossi kept the Cougars in the game and the Wildcats were unable to add a second. But Rossi, who came off a brilliant clean sheet in SIU’s upset win over No. 2 seed Notre Dame in the First Round, couldn’t create for her teammates on offense, as SIU only managed one shot on goal in the first half.
The second half tested Kayla Sharples and Hannah Davison in Northwestern’s back line as SIU fought to extend its season. SIU increased its pressure on Lauren Clem in the Northwestern goal to begin the second half, but the first real chance of the second half fell to Gorman again, who pounced on another long ball and nearly picked up a brace. But Rossi made another fine save, keeping the score at 1-0 Northwestern with 33 minutes remaining.
The game got more intense and physical as each team battled to stay alive in the tournament. The ball bounced around the midfield as neither team was able to get into a rhythm with fouls consistently punctuating play. But against a Northwestern team that only conceded six goals all year, SIU was unable to break down the Wildcats’ defense. Northwestern could have added another goal or two, but it ultimately proved unnecessary. When the clock hit zero, Northwestern advanced with its eighth 1-0 victory of the year and an astonishing 17th clean sheet in 22 games. It’s the first time Northwestern has reached the Round of 16 in the NCAA Tournament since 1998.
Northwestern will face either Illinois State or No. 3-seed Duke on Sunday. With Duke as the higher seed, the game will take place in Durham, N.C.