Just two and a half weeks ago, the Northwestern women’s soccer team (7-4-1, 3-1-1 B1G) came off their first conference loss to Iowa amidst an intimidating road trip to kick-off Big Ten play. Now, halfway through conference competition, the Wildcats are tied with Michigan State for third place in the Big Ten having not dropped a contest since.
The ‘Cats traveled to Happy Valley with an understandable chip on their shoulder from a very preventable loss to the Hawkeyes. Nonetheless, any anger over the defeat was quickly channeled into Northwestern’s first win at Penn State in program history. The Nittany Lions, ranked No. 12 nationally and No. 1 in RPI rankings at the time of the contest, were overwhelmed by NU’s offensive press in the opening half, leading to two goals within the first 36 minutes of play.
Northwestern’s Kaylee Titus opened scoring with a curling banger from outside the box off of a corner kick — a worthwhile first career goal for the senior.
The offensive press continued with, to no one’s surprise, a goal by sophomore star Josie Aulicino. Assisted by Olivia Stone on a beautiful slot pass, the Michigan native found her way right through the PSU defense into just enough space to slam it home.
A late goal scored by the Nittany Lions was not enough to discourage the Wildcat back three of Hallie Pearson, Danika Austin and true freshman Emma Phillips as well as keeper Mackenzie Wood. While Penn State outshot Northwestern 13 to 7, Northwestern managed to place all 7 of their shots on goal while PSU did the same with only 5. For a Northwestern team with a shot-on-goal percentage of 50% or below in five of its first eight matchups, this was a huge improvement against a formidable opponent.
Unfortunately, NU’s next result was not quite as exciting, though the game itself did plenty to raise the heart-rates of spectators on both sides. The Wildcats continued their road-trip against Maryland in College Park, where they were nearly bested by the Terrapins before a late goal —quite literally in the 90th minute of play — off a deflected cross by senior Francesca Docters tied the scoreline and sent the matchup into double overtime.
The midfielder’s efforts for her first career goal would be in vain, however, as neither team was able to find the back of the net before the ultimate whistle blew. Nonetheless, Wood managed to make seven crucial saves to keep the Terrapins from scoring again, and Stone continued to prove herself as a critical asset in creating goal scoring opportunities by tacking on her third assist of the season.
The ladies returned home after the draw and only continued to prove why they wear the title of Cardiac ‘Cats in another last minute thriller against Illinois. Scoreless through the first 89 minutes of play, it was Aulicino’s connection with Iowa native Regan Steigleder that sealed the win for Northwestern just before the final whistle. Aulicino lifted a trademark nicely-weighted corner right into the box and onto the head of Steigleder, who directed the ball right between the Illini keeper and the post for the game winning goal.
The win against Illinois continued Northwestern’s undefeated record at home this season which was only extended in another Wildcat win versus Nebraska. In that match, nothing else but that inevitable Aulicino-Steigleder magic once again to lead NU to victory. The sophomore scored the game’s opening goal (and her sixth goal on the season) early in the first half, taking a controlled touch into the back of the net off a rogue cross sent in by Aurea Martin.
It was then the weather that took over match proceedings as multiple lightning strikes in the area sent the second half of the game inside Ryan Fieldhouse. Nebraska attempted to surge back indoors, but a handball in the box by a Husker defender led to a cleanly-placed penalty by Stegleider, giving the Wildcats a 2-0 lead and an eventual victory even after a late Nebraska goal.
Following two consecutive game-winning-goals, Stegleider was named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week on Tuesday. The graduate student continues to build on an impressive tenure as a Wildcat, adding three goals and an assist to her career totals this season.
The Wildcats continue their at-home streak on Friday at 7 p.m. CST where they’ll take on the RPI No. 35 ranked Indiana.