Just five minutes away from an 0-3 start, the Wildcats finally got their offense going. Despite not scoring a goal for the first 265 minutes of the 2019 season, Michael Moynihan’s side got things turned around just in the nick of time over the weekend, earning themselves an important home win along with a draw to earn some positive momentum as they head into a tougher stretch on their schedule.
Northwestern’s (1-2-1) Thursday matchup with Central Michigan (0-0-2) looked to be going the way of their season opener against SMU. In a back-and-forth first half, CMU earned a goal on a nicely worked piece of attacking down the right-hand flank just 13 minutes in. But as the half came to a close, the Wildcats started to dominate.
Thanks largely to an inspired change, with Moynihan sending star midfielder Regan Steigleder to left back, NU’s attack became relentless. “My coach has always told me I’m a very versatile player, so I was ready to play wherever he put me,” Steigleder said. “When he moved me at the end of the first half it worked well, so I just stayed out there.”
But despite the relentless attack, it looked like the Wildcats would still be stymied by a solid defense and a seeming inability to find the back of the net. That is, until Rowan Lapi struck. After a corner kick (Northwestern’s seventh of a game to CMU’s zero), the ball popped out to the middle of the field, and the first year holding midfielder struck for the team’s first goal of the season:
Despite quality chances both ways in overtime, including an actual goal from Central Michigan that found the back of the net just seconds after the clock expired, the game remained even at 1-1. CMU’s goalkeeper, Zoie Reed, stood out, managing nine saves on the day, including six (!) on Steigleder alone.
Moynihan had mixed feelings about the result: “It’s a tough one. I mean this stings, because I feel like we should be coming away with more...Fortunately, we got the equalizer. I felt there was more to be had, but that was good.”
Fortunately for him, the Wildcats quickly got themselves into the win column thanks to Sunday’s matchup with William & Mary. After a slow first half, which featured only a few chance, Northwestern found the opener just three minutes after the break:
After an impressive save from Mackenzie Wood, the all-conference sophomore goalkeeper who had struggled uncharacteristically in the first couple of games, Aurea Martin quickly made it 2-0 with an absolute laser to the top corner:
William & Mary (1-3) scored a meaningless goal late, but the ‘Cats were easily able to hold onto their first win of the season in the end, taking it 2-1.
The bounce-back weekend really emphasized this team’s youth: two of the three goals were scored by true first years Aurea Martin and Rowan Lapi. The Wildcats will only lose two players from this year’s group next season, graduate defenders Taylor Hallmon and Olivia Korhonen, so any progress made during what will probably ultimately be a rebuilding year is certainly meaningful.
The Wildcats will head back on the road for another pair of Thursday-Sunday games coming up, first traveling to Cincinnati to face the Bearcats before heading up to Cambridge, Mass and a tilt with Harvard.