Consistency has been the theme of Northwestern’s season. That is, of course, true, if you consider inconsistency a form of consistency, as NU has been consistently inconsistent. However, this isn’t unexpected for a team in its first season under a new manager, and the positive results they’ve found will provide a great stepping stone for the years to come.
One such positive result was their win at Wisconsin last week, which, while sandwiched between losses to Rutgers and Villanova, puts them in a promising position to qualify for the Big Ten tournament.
The first match the ‘Cats were involved in over the last two weeks was at home against Rutgers (7-3-2). While the Scarlet Knights entered the game with a significantly better record than the Wildcats, they both had only picked up one win in conference play, so the two teams were closer than an initial look might suggest. That relative equality in talent was apparent throughout, but Rutgers struck first in the 21st minute. Northwestern clawed its way back into the match early in the second half, as an excellent cross from Bardia Kimiavi was flicked on by Spencer Farina to Rom Brown, who could knock the ball into an empty net.
As has been the case far too many times, NU couldn’t create a decisive moment, and even worse, the Scarlet Knights did, as an 81st minute winner put the ‘Cats on the wrong end of a 2-1 scoreline. Russell Payne’s team didn’t have much time to dwell in that defeat, as they traveled to Madison to face Wisconsin just four days later.
The Badgers (7-3-3), came into the game off of a tough defeat to Michigan, a loss which snapped an eight game unbeaten run, and were eager to get back into the win column. They recorded 16 shot attempts, four of which were on target, but the Northwestern back line and goalkeeper Miha Miskovic held strong, as none of Wisconsin’s shots found the back of the net. For the ‘Cats, efficiency was the story of the gae, as they only recorded two attempts on target, but boy, were they effective. In the 20th minute, Colin McCamy controlled a pass about thirty yards from goal, dribbled himself into a shooting position just outside of the box, and bent it just inside of the post to give NU the lead. Just pure brilliance.
The great goals didn’t stop there for the ‘Cats, as Vicente Castro produced one of the best assists you may ever see. In the 51st minute, he found a pocket of space between Wisconsin’s midfield and defense, received the ball on the half turn, worked his way to the byline, using every last inch of playing territory available to him before flicking a cross in to an unmarked Justin Weiss who then doubled Northwestern’s advantage. Lionel Messi who?
The Wildcats held the 2-0 lead until the final whistle, and picked up their second Big Ten win to move to a 2-5 conference record. With eight of the nine teams in the Big Ten qualifying for the conference tournament, all the ‘Cats have to do is not finish last, and with Ohio State sitting at 1-5 and Northwestern holding the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Buckeyes, it would really take a miracle for NU to not qualify. In this case, a miracle is Ohio State beating both Michigan and Rutgers and Northwestern losing to Michigan State. As it stands, the ‘Cats would be traveling to Bloomington in a rematch against the number one seed, Indiana, in the quarterfinals, but a lot can change from now until then.
Most recently, Northwestern faced Villanova (8-6-0) in an all-Wildcat showdown. Things went almost the opposite way for NU as they did against Wisconsin, as they registered more attempts than Villanova, but a couple of early goals from VU put them in the driver’s seat and they never looked back, triumphing over our Wildcats 2-0.
As mentioned before, Northwestern has one last match in their regular season before a potential postseason, and that comes on October 31 at home against Michigan State.