Two national championships, 11 NCAA postseason berths, one WNBA draftee and countless other athletic and academic achievements define the last year in Northwestern sports. Inside NU’s staff members were challenged with picking just one of the many moments Wildcat fans took pride in over 2021-22:
Sarah Effress: Women’s basketball’s double-overtime victory over No. 4 Michigan
I covered a lot of overtime games between both Northwestern basketball teams last year, but none as exciting as the Wildcats’ 71-69 win at Welsh-Ryan to take down the Wolverines. It was special — first-year Jillian Brown balled out with 18 points, leading the team in scoring when Veronica Burton’s point totals weren’t there during regulation. That being said, the Backcourt Burglar still contributed 13 points and 13 rebounds in the end, eventually sealing the victory off two pinpoint free throws in the second overtime period. The atmosphere at WRA after the final buzzer was unbelievable, which after a year of remote and COVID-affected coverage was a welcome sight.
My honorable mention is Ryan Deakin’s national championship because I can’t not mention it — it was about time.
Ben Chasen: Softball defeating Arizona State in the Tempe Super Regional
While NU field hockey’s remarkable national title win over Liberty was my favorite moment that I got to witness live this year (Tracey Fuchs for President), the ‘Cats’ softball squad has long held a special place in my heart unlike any other program in Evanston. As such, watching NU push through to the Women’s College World Series in what has been heralded by some as the greatest NCAA Super Regional series of all time was my thrill of the year. Danielle Williams’ stamina, poise and determination were unbelievable. The team’s Game Three comeback — sparked by some of its senior stars — was inspirational. And though I wasn’t in Tempe when Hannah Cady grabbed the final out, I can’t recall a moment when I was prouder to be a Wildcat.
John Olsen: Miha Miskovic turning into prime Manuel Neuer during the Big Ten Men’s Soccer tournament.
In their first season under head coach Russell Payne, the ‘Cats entered the eight-team conference tournament as the No. 7 and a matchup with 10th-ranked Maryland awaiting them in the first round. No one, including me, expected much from this postseason opportunity, especially since the Terrapins bested NU 3-1 in their only meeting in the regular season. It was going to take a special set of circumstances for Northwestern to advance, and the man between the sticks, graduate goalkeeper Miha Miskovic, provided them.
Miskovic made 10 saves across the 110 minutes of game time — a career-best — including a massive stop on a 77th-minute Maryland penalty kick. The Serbian’s heroics forced a penalty shootout, where the Terrapins converted just two of their five spot-kicks and Northwestern prevailed. Miskovic’s excellent form continued into the semifinal match against top-seeded Indiana, but after making seven more stops, the Hoosiers were finally able to get one past him in sudden-death overtime, ending a short-lived, but nevertheless fairy-tale run for the ‘Cats. It definitely wasn’t the end to a collegiate career a player of his caliber deserved, but there is no reason for him to be disappointed with his individual performance.
Jacob Brown: Danielle Williams’ Dominance
It’s not often you get to see someone who excels at their craft the way Williams does. And to be back at The J, watching Williams shut down teams while the offense mashes on the other side of the plate was a real treat. She carried Northwestern through the ASU series and watching her bring the Cats to the WCWS again next year is something that I’m immensely looking forward to.
Bradley Locker: Softball's unrelenting Women's College World Series run
Maybe it’s recency bias, but Northwestern Softball may have enjoyed the best two-week stretch of any Wildcat team this season. After dropping two of three at Minnesota to end the regular season and losing to Michigan in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament, postseason expectations were tempered for Kate Drohan’s squad. The ‘Cats hosted a Regional at The J for the first time in three years, and the team responded to the electric atmosphere by sweeping the competition. Then, out west in Tempe, Ariz., NU played one of the best three-game series I’ve ever seen in any diamond sport. The Wildcats came from behind in all three, two of which went to extra innings. The team beat the Sun Devils on the backs of the aforementioned Williams and the hot-hitting of Jordyn Rudd and Maeve Nelson to earn its first appearance in Oklahoma City in 15 years. Though Northwestern did not win a game in the Women’s College World Series, seeing Wildcats of lore in attendance emphasized just how much the team had turned the nation’s hearts purple.
Sarah Meadow: Lacrosse’s dominance over Syracuse in the NCAA tournament
It was just phenomenal to see Lauren Gilbert, Jill Girardi, Ally Palermo and Brennan Dwyer go out with such a strong win at home on a beautiful day at Martin Stadium - a team that they have had a strong back-and-forth rivalry at that. Everything was working in the ‘Cats favor that day, from Madison Doucette in goal to Gilbert’s four goals to Girard’s five draw controls. That’s how I want to remember this team’s season.
Natalie Pizer: Field hockey’s National Championship win
It might be a bailout but if no one is going to say the obvious one, I will. Fuchs’ squad was relentless this season. It was amazing to see the ‘Cats recover from a double-overtime shootout loss to Michigan in the first round of the B1G tournament, turning around and dominating NCAAs. The ‘Cats weren’t leaving Ann Arbor without a ring and it was only fitting that Maddie Zimmer and Alia Marshall carried them to victory, with one goal apiece in the title game. It’s been quite the year for Northwestern women’s sports. but frankly, nothing tops this moment for me.
Ignacio Dowling: Cross country’s 4th-place finish at NCAA Midwest Regionals
With all the non-rev success Northwestern enjoyed this year, this one might fly under the radar. On paper, Jill Miller’s squad shouldn’t have been in a position to finish towards the top of a championship field of 33 teams to begin with. A relatively small school with a coach in her second season doesn’t tend to bode well in a sport where depth and continuity are much more important than top-end success. But the ‘Cats overcame the odds to put up their best regional finish in two decades. Rachel McCardell made that moment even sweeter by finishing third overall and earning herself a Nationals bid. It was a huge accomplishment for a team that finished 13th at NCAA Regionals in 2019.
Ben Cooper: Veronica Burton’s senior season
It’s hard to verbalize the impact Veronica Burton had on Northwestern basketball during her four years, but in her senior season, she took it to another level. Averaging an obscene four steals a game earned her B1G Defensive Player of the Year for her third consecutive season, and having career highs in points, rebounds and assists on efficient shooting numbers got her named a third-team AP All-American. Accolades aside, from an impact standpoint Burton will not only go down as one of Northwestern’s greatest basketball players of all time, but one of the greatest athletes overall to ever compete for the ‘Cats. The Backcourt Burglar will forever be a legend in Evanston, and her season was just the icing on the cake.
Gavin Dorsey: Rachel Lewis breaking NU’s career home runs record
After one of the greatest careers in Northwestern softball history, Lewis stamped her mark in the Wildcat record books with numerous awards, accolades and spots in the team’s Top Ten rankings. The grandest prize of all, however, was Lewis’ collection of the career home runs record. With a packed stadium and the former record holder, Tammy Williams, in attendance, Lewis claimed the title in front of an electric atmosphere.