Welp. The unbeaten streak is no more. A loss to Michigan State ended the 13-game unbeaten streak and dropped the ‘Cats all the way down to 13th in the rankings, eight spots lower than they were before.
Let’s see how the longest unbeaten streak in school history came to an end.
October 13th at Michigan
Northwestern started this slate by heading out east on the lake to take on Michigan. While a wolverine might be a fearsome adversary to encounter in the wild, the Wolverines were easy to handle on the pitch, with the ‘Cats taking them down 3-0.
The Wildcats came out flying (maybe they should change that expression about pigs...), taking eight shots in the first 40 minutes, but all were to no avail. First-year Caterina Regazzoni sought to change that in the 44th minute when she bent one around the Michigan keeper off an assist from senior Paige Miller. Regazzoni’s goal in the waning minutes of the first half made it 10 straight games with a first half goal for the ‘Cats. Northwestern kept the pressure on to start the second half, and practically the whole team was involved in Aurea del Carmen’s 61st minute goal. Josie Aulicino got the play started with a short corner to fellow junior Meg Boade, who then found Nicole Doucette just outside the box. Doucette swung one into the mixer, glancing the ball off the head of Emma Phillips. Del Carmen then slid in to place the ball firmly into the back of the net. To most, a two-goal lead would be sufficient, but Ella Hase thought otherwise. She took it upon herself to score a third goal for the ‘Cats in the 85th minute, bringing the score to 3-0, where it would remain for the rest of the game.
The offense was impressive (14 shots, nine on goal,) but Northwestern’s defense was the unsung hero of this game. Michigan took 12 total shots with seven on goal, but graduate student Mia Raben took care of all of them with ease.
Ok. Deep breaths.
Time to get to the less fun portion of this update.
October 16th vs Michigan State
Before I dive into these next two games, let me remind you that this is only the second time I’ve had to write about a loss while covering this team. Forgive me if I’m out of practice.
Stop it. No more delaying. Let’s start with the 2-1 loss to Michigan State.
This was Northwestern’s “Together We Win” game, which is an important endeavor, but it does not describe what happened on the field.
The Wildcats started slowly, mustering up only one shot in the first half, losing their first streak of the day in the process. The offense was night and day from what was shown in Michigan, and this regression is a disturbing sign just games before the postseason kicks off. The Spartans lacked these same struggles as they marched to two first half goals within the first 21 minutes. Samantha White had MSU’s first in the 13th minute, and Celia Gaynor followed that effort with a goal of her own in the 21st minute.
Head coach Michael Moynihan must’ve given a rousing halftime speech, because the team turned it up a notch to start the second half. They fired off three shots in the first ten minutes, and the offensive aggression paid off in the 55th minute. Del Carmen was fouled hard in the box, resulting in a Northwestern penalty kick. Senior Rowan Lapi calmly stepped up to the spot and buried her fourth goal of the season to cut the deficit to one. Michigan State shook off its stupor and stepped up its defensive effort, preventing Northwestern from scoring again, and the game ended 2-1.
The Spartans only allowed Northwestern to take 8 shots, which tied for the team’s second lowest total of the season. Michigan State came into this game 15th in the nation, and it was hungry to pull off the upset. The Spartans held its spot atop the Big Ten rankings and jumped up to sixth in the national polls after this win.
One would hope that Northwestern would take this as a wake up call and up its efforts in the final two games to tune up for the postseason, but the Iowa game seems to tell a different story.
October 20th vs Iowa
Senior night was spoiled for Northwestern as it fell to Iowa 2-1. It’s a shame too, because these seniors are a crucial component of this team and deserved to be honored better.
The Wildcats fell behind early, with an own goal putting Iowa up 1-0 in the 28th minute. Iowa’s Addie Bundy tacked on a second in the 32nd minute, giving Iowa two goals. Conversely, Northwestern only had two shots in the first half and went into the locker room behind for the second time in two games.
The team charged out of the locker room with a new fervor, taking only three minutes to score as Hase connected on a Doucette cross to earn one back from the Hawkeyes. The ‘Cats continued trying to find an equalizer, taking 11 total shots in the second half, but they were unable to strike oil. This failure lead to Northwestern’s second 2-1 loss in as many games.
Offensive struggles plagued Northwestern again, with the Wildcats seeing eight of their nine attempts on goal thwarted by Iowa keeper Macy Enneking. There were some good looks, but many of the shots were not quality. Some questionable referee work missed a potential penalty for Northwestern, but excuses can not cover up the broader issues.
Northwestern has one more game against No. 17 Ohio State this Sunday. The ‘Cats will be looking to finish the regular season with a win in Columbus at 1 P.M. CT on B1G+. A win would also secure sole possession of second place in the Big Ten, which would be beneficial for tournament seeding. Northwestern has already earned a home game in the Big Ten Tournament with the possibility for more, so there will still be opportunities for fans to support this team at Martin Stadium.
A small stumble does not take away from what this team has done the rest of the season, and they still have a strong chance to make a deep run this postseason. Don’t go anywhere.