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Women’s soccer suffers disappointing end to rebuilding season

It was a tough year for a program that is typically among Northwestern’s best.

NU Sports

Northwestern women’s soccer (5-10-3) concluded its 2019 campaign last week with three consecutive losses to just miss out on postseason play, an accurate representation of the team’s struggles this year.

Defeats to Penn State, Minnesota and Wisconsin meant the team wouldn’t compete in the Big Ten tournament. Eight teams qualify for the end of year conference, and the losses dropped the ‘Cats to ninth for the second year in a row, though last season’s team still reached postseason play.

This year’s failure to qualify for the postseason meant it would be the first time since 2014 that MIchael Moynihan’s team wouldn’t be participating in the NCAA tournament.

It was always going to be an uphill battle for NU after graduating ten players last year, with three of them drafted to the NWSL (Marisa Viggiano, Kayla Sharples, and Hannah Davison). Among the departed players were the team’s top three goal scorers in 2018, including all-time leader in game-winning scores Brenna Lovera, as well as a defensive group that recorded 47 shutouts. Nonetheless, the ‘Cats had fairly high expectations for the extremely young, but talented group that remained in Evanston.

Overall, only three Wildcats scored more than a goal, though 12 players got on the board in total in that category. As a team, NU scored nearly half as many goals as its opponents, putting 15 in the net to the opposition’s 27. The stats indicate a clear offensive issue, as Northwestern averaged less than a goal per game and was shut out seven times over the course of the season.

The good news for Moynihan and co. is that Northwestern will lose only two players, graduate students Taylor Hallmon and Olivia Korhonen. Hallmon was a graduate transfer from Florida State, winning a national title and multiple ACC championships in Tallahassee. Korhonen returned from injury in 2019 to complete her last season of eligibility. She garnered 50 appearances during her time in Evanston.

There were no true seniors on the team and only six juniors, allowing the group a chance to develop as a team as it will look to rebound in 2020.

In the midfield, the team brings everybody back, headlined by star junior Regan Steigleder. Up top, that holds true as well, with redshirt first year Olivia Stone and fellow first year Paige Miller leading a talented and multifaceted group that did everything but find the back of the net for much of this season.

Defensively, though, the Wildcats will have to undergo some changes. The group was in flux for much of the season, with Julietta Thron emerging into a cornerstone at center back and true first year Danika Austin becoming one of the most dangerous players on the team in attack at right back. The other two spots in the back four often shifted, with Korhonen and Hallmon each playing a role for part of the season.

And of course, sophomore goalkeeper Mackenzie Wood has a lock on the 11th starting spot, and continues to impress as one of the top net minders in the Big Ten.

All told, the Wildcats will remain quite talented, if not as young as they were this season, moving forwards. Despite a tough finish to a trying season, the future is as bright as it’s ever been.