After losing their first Big Ten game to Illinois, Northwestern women’s soccer bounced back this past weekend to secure crucial wins against both Nebraska and, impressively a fringe top-25 Iowa team, both on the road. The Wildcats are now 4-5-1 overall and 2-1 in conference play.
True freshman Danika Austin was crucial for NU in both wins, contributing one assist and one goal to now lead the team with five points this season while also defending impressively in her role as a center back. She is one of just four Wildcats to start every game this season (alongside midfielder Regan Steigleder, fellow defender Julietta Thron, and goalkeeper Mackenzie Wood), and her play on both ends of the field has lived up to the responsibilities that head coach Michael Moynihan has given her.
Wood impressed as well, recording 9 saves on the weekend to one goal allowed while facing a whopping 37 shots. The sophomore, who had struggled to get going early in the season after an impressive first-year campaign, combined with her defense to keep Northwestern in both games long enough to earn a pair of exciting late winners.
On Thursday, the Wildcats came out on top against the Cornhuskers behind a late goal from junior Madi Kennel, her first of the season. Austin was phenomenal on the set-up to earn an assist, and Haley Lawson’s run to the front post freed up Kennel in behind her. It all came together to create the only goal of an offense-averse game, and to give NU a nationally televised win in Lincoln.
This matchup marked the 10th career shutout for Wood. Freshman Marianna Annest contributed in some of her first action at left back with a much-needed stop at the goal line, keeping the Huskers out of the net when it looked like they would certainly take an early advantage.
Later in the weekend, the ‘Cats pulled off an even more impressive feat with an upset over the Hawkeyes in Iowa City. Austin stood out once again, finding the game-winning golden goal after a scrum on a corner kick; the game went into overtime after Iowa tied the game following a score from freshman Reilly Riggs, also off of a corner.
Wood stunned Iowa’s offense, making eight saves against the Hawkeyes. She topped the 100 save mark this past week and currently has 111 across her young career. Though the Hawkeyes, who have the most shots per game in the Big Ten by a wide margin, got off plenty of them, the Northwestern defense took away enough potential opportunities to win.
This marks the end of a three-game road streak to kick off conference play for the ‘Cats. They will return home to face the Purdue Boilermakers, who are 2-2 in conference play: they also beat Nebraska and Iowa, but then lost to Michigan and Michigan State. The matchup will take place on Thursday, Oct 3 at Martin Stadium.