These cool ‘Cats keep moving up in the world, coming in at sixth on the latest United Soccer Coaches’ Poll. Time to see how they got there.
September 29th vs No. 10 Rutgers
Ties kind of stink. To have 90 minutes of intense action end in such an underwhelming way is a bummer for both fans and players alike, especially if you think your team should’ve come away with the victory. This was the case for Northwestern vs. Rutgers. Over 1,000 fans crammed into Martin Stadium to witness the top-ten matchup, and they walked away disappointed with the 1-1 result. The game itself was thrilling, however, so let’s put aside any residual discontent and focus on the on-field product.
Northwestern was relentless from the beginning, with their vicious attack eager to start scoring. It only took until the ninth minute for them to get their wish. An impressive offensive build-up saw junior Meg Boade swing one out wide to junior Ella Hase, who then made a beautiful cross right to senior Aurea del Carmen where only she could get it. Unsurprisingly, del Carmen got a head on it, feeding her old friend named the back of the net. The ‘Cats continued pressing with hopes of doubling their lead, but were unable to find anything before the half.
Rutgers must have received a motivating halftime speech, because Allison Lowrey scored her seventh goal of the season just two minutes and 44 seconds into the second half. Northwestern attempted to respond to the Rutgers equalizer, taking 11 shots throughout the second half, but it was to no avail. The Wildcats kept getting close time and time again, but Rutgers goalie Meagan McClelland played on her head, making five saves to keep Northwestern from finding the go-ahead goal. Despite being on the front foot for the majority of the game (the ‘Cats outshot Rutgers 14-10, with six shots on goal compared to Rutgers’ two), a draw was the final result for Northwestern
In the last update, I ended with a call to action for Northwestern fans, urging them to come out in full force for this match up, and wow, did they respond. A large student section formed right at kickoff, and they stayed loud for the entire 90 minutes. The passion radiated from the stands, particularly after a sketchy no-call late in the game that should have resulted in a Rutgers red card. Indignant fans (myself included) were screaming their heads off, outraged at the denial of a clear scoring opportunity. A team as good as this Northwestern one deserves a fiery fanbase, so good on the fans for recognizing this special squad.
October 2nd at Illinois
After an upsetting result at home, the ‘Cats travelled to Champaign in search of a pick-me-up. I almost feel bad for the Fighting Illini, because that is just about the last thing I’d want to see. They must’ve been scared too, or maybe they changed their nickname, because they lost to Northwestern 4-0 without a fight.
Senior Rowan Lapi got the party started in the 33rd minute with a penalty kick goal, her second of the season. Northwestern waited until the second half to continue the festivities, when senior Danika Austin joined the jamboree in the 57th minute with her first goal of the season, putting the ‘Cats up 2-0. Junior Josie Aulicino must’ve felt left out of the goal-scoring gala, because she doubled Northwestern’s lead with two goals in six minutes. The first came in the 66th minute off an assist from senior Lily Gilbertson, and the second followed in the 72nd minute, thanks to a penalty kick.
Other Northwestern players clearly wanted to get in on the action, as the team took 17 total shots with 11 on goal, but Illinois goalie Julia Cili thwarted most of their attempts, making six saves. Speaking of netminders, Northwestern keeper Mia Raben made four saves on eight Illini shots en route to her tenth individual clean sheet of the season.
I’m sure Northwestern was ready to pop bottles after thrashing their bitter rivals down in Champaign, but it was time for the Wildcats to come home to Evanston for a matchup against the Big Ten-leading Wisconsin Badgers.
October 7th vs Wisconsin
It is kind of surprising that the highest-ranked team in the conference is not atop the Big Ten table, but alas that is the case.
Oh, sorry. That was the case, until Northwestern accomplished what the football team would later fail to do, and took down the pesky Wisconsin Badgers 2-1.
Boade wasted no time scoring her fourth goal in six games, netting the opener for the ‘Cats in the sixth minute. Both defenses held strong for the rest of the half, and the teams headed to the locker rooms with Northwestern up 1-0. After an uneventful start to the second half, Aulicino and del Carmen decided in the 68th minute to forgo the typical Northwestern career paths of consulting or journalism and pursue insurance instead. Aulicino offered first, but saw her bid rejected until del Carmen followed up, securing that valuable second goal for the ‘Cats. It proved to be the right move as well, as Wisconsin’s Rylee Howard scored five minutes later to bring the Badgers within one. It wasn’t enough, however, and Northwestern hung on to win 2-1.
Northwestern out-shot its opponent for the third game in a row, and tenth time this season, taking 12 shots (seven on goal) to Wisconsin’s nine (four on goal). Raben also continued her impressive run in goal with three saves, marking the fifth time she has made three or more saves this season.
Speaking of impressive streaks, I have a few more to mention.
First off, this win extended Northwestern’s unbeaten streak to 12, which is a program record.
The ‘Cats also have had nine straight games with a first half goal, pointing to their offensive dominance.
Lastly, this game was the second home game in a row to tally over 1,000 fans. The Friday night lights action brought out a total of 1,112 fans to Martin Stadium.
The ‘Cats will look to keep this momentum going over their final four games of the regular season, so let’s see who they will matchup against to end the campaign.
Northwestern leaves town again on Thursday, October 13th, crossing the lake to take on the Michigan Wolverines. Kickoff is at 5 pm CT on B1G+.
The ‘Cats will then return to Evanston on October 16th, bringing the other Big Ten team from Michigan with them for the annual Together We Win game, which aims to promote diversity and inclusion. This matchup against the Spartans will be at 1 pm CT on B1G+, but fans should show out to see if they can hit 1,000 fans in three games straight. Northwestern is currently tied for the Big Ten lead with Michigan State, so this game could be critical in deciding Big Ten Tournament seeding.
The Iowa Hawkeyes come to town next, and Northwestern fans will have a chance to see if their football offensive woes extend to soccer as well. This game, which kicks off at 7 pm CT on October 20th on, you guessed it, B1G+, will also be Northwestern’s Senior Night, so fans should come and support the seniors who have done so much for this team.
The ‘Cats’ final regular season matchup will be in Columbus, OH against the Ohio State Buckeyes. Depending on what happens in the games leading up to this October 23rd showdown, this could also be a ranked matchup. OSU is currently 16th in the polls, so expect an exciting game to close out the season at 1 pm on B1G+.