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Women’s soccer: NCAA Tournament is on the horizon

Trophy cabinet addition soon?

This update will be a roller coaster of sorts. We’ll be starting at a low point, with the 2-0 loss to Penn State in the Big Ten Tournament Semifinal. Anticipation quickly builds and we begin a climb back up, however, as the ‘Cats wait with bated breath to hear when their names would be called for the NCAA Tournament. A peak is reached when the announcement comes that Northwestern will be a four seed. It is at this high point that we find ourselves now, tingling with nervous excitement as we sit awaiting the numerous flips and loop-de-loops that are to come as the Wildcats try to make the most of their first NCAA Tournament berth since 2018. While we sit here with our stomachs ready to drop at any moment, let’s get in to the nitty-gritty details of the past week in Northwestern women’s soccer.

Nov. 3 vs. Penn State

After a first round victory at home over Rutgers, the ‘Cats traveled back to Columbus, Ohio for the second time in as many weeks (a fate I wouldn’t wish on anyone) for the semifinals. There they found the six-seed Penn State Nittany Lions waiting, hungry for an upset. Much to the Wildcats’ chagrin, defeat was on the menu.

The Nittany Lions must’ve been starving, because they ordered their first course early into the match. Kate Wiesner placed an order for the “back of the net” and was promptly served in the third minute. Her shot slipped past the outstretched leg of Mia Raben, and just like that, Penn State was up 1-0.

That meal was clearly not filling enough, as Penn State came back for seconds in the 19th minute. An unsettled ball found the foot of Payton Linnehan, who clearly had her order in mind. All it took was one touch for Linnehan to score, putting the Nittany Lions up 2-0.

The sixth seed was clearly content to sit and sip coffee before asking for the check despite Northwestern’s numerous requests to settle up. The Wildcats took 14 total shots with nine on goal, but a stellar goalkeeping effort by Katherine Asman kept Penn State firmly in the lead.

This was only Northwestern’s third time being shut out this season, but the timing was inopportune. The second-seeded Wildcats were knocked out of the tournament. Penn State would go on to win the entire thing, beating Michigan State 3-2 in the final. Not all hope was lost for the ‘Cats though. The NCAA Tournament selections were just around the corner.

Moving Forward

When all was said and done, Northwestern was awarded a four-seed and a first round home matchup against a familiar foe: The SIUE Cougars. SIUE already made one trip to Evanston this season, and results were less than favorable for the Cougars. Northwestern trounced them 5-0, and are hoping this go-round will be no different. The rematch will take place on Saturday, Nov. 12 at 1 p.m. CT (streaming information to come). Wildcat weather is expected, with highs of 39 and winds nearing 20 miles an hour off the lake. That should not discourage fans from attending the first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2018, however. These players have competed their tails off all season and deserve fan support as they go for glory one more time.

If the ‘Cats pull off the win on Saturday, they stand to face the winner of Vanderbilt and Clemson. Should the ‘Cats make it through that game, only four wins would stand between the Wildcats and hoisting the College Cup, which is certainly doable. This run may be harder than expected though. Standout defender Emma Phillips picked up an injury in the loss to PSU, making her status unclear for the tournament. Coach Michael Moynihan will have to make some changes if she is unable to play, but only time will tell if these adjustments will prove effective.

Stay tuned for Inside NU’s coverage as Northwestern tries to find one more win streak to finish the season as NCAA champions.