Overview and Outlook
Head Coach: Michael Moynihan
2021 Record: 7-9-1 (3-6-1 B1G)
Goals for: 20
Goals against: 21
It’s safe to say 2021 did not end the way Northwestern women’s soccer fans would have hoped, though it had glimmers of potential many a time. After beginning the season 1-3 following a long road trip, which included a 2-0 loss to then-No. 2 North Carolina, things began to look up for Michael Moynihan’s ‘Cats. Northwestern won three straight heading in to Big Ten play thanks to strong performances by sophomore midfielder Josie Aulicino who hit the back of the net herself in four of the team’s first six games.
A loss at Iowa to open the conference schedule didn’t seem to deter the ‘Cats at first. They came roaring back with wins against Penn State, Illinois and Nebraska paired with a solid 1-1 draw at Maryland. Grad student star Regan Steigleder found her flow at this point in the season and scored the game-winning-goals against the Illini and Huskers to bring NU’s conference record at the time to 3-1-1 with five regular season games remaining.
Unfortunately, the ‘Cats couldn’t find a way back to victory for the remainder of the season. Moynihan’s squad dropped their final five contests by one goal each, resulting in the team missing the conference tournament and therefore, the postseason.
Now, despite the key roles of Steigleder and goalkeeper Mackenzie Wood, both of whom will not return in 2022, Northwestern does return a myriad of young talent including the majority of it’s starting 11 from last year. Now-sophomore Emma Phillips remains a centerpiece of the back line alongside veteran Danika Austin and holding midfielder Rowan Lapi returns to the center third, while players like Aulicino, Meg Boade, Ingrid Falls and Aurea Del Carmen (formerly Martin) will need to step up and increase scoring production in order to contend for a spot in the postseason.
GK Mackenzie Wood
The ‘Cats, the 2022 roster will not include two of its most important players from the last five seasons. The first of which is keeper Wood who started every single game of her four-year career. Since earning Big Ten All-Freshman Team honors in 2018, Wood continued to make a name for herself in the Big Ten as the anchor of Northwestern’s defense. In her final season, she notched 73 saves to seal her career save percentage at 79.1%. Wood’s likely replacement is graduate transfer Mia Raben from Wake Forest, but senior goalkeeper Maddie Lo has not seen game action yet and could also be in the mix.
M Regan Steigleder
As far as key losses go, adding Steigleder to the list of departures after Wood is something Wildcat soccer fans have been dreading for years. Also a member of the Big Ten All-Freshmen Team her first season in 2017, Steigleder has been a focal point on Northwestern’s attack her entire career. Losing her, especially after a year where both herself and Aulicino made up for the majority of scoring production, puts much more pressure on the shoulders of players like Boade, Del Carmen and Falls who will have to pick up the slack.
M Josie Aulicino (Jr.)
After a standout freshman season during 2021’s modified COVID spring season, Aulicino did not stop her sophomore campaign. She led the team with six goals and eight assists for a spot on the All-Big Ten Third Team. Stepping up when Steigleder was doubled-up or shut down by opponents, Aulicino was undoubtedly Northwestern’s biggest attacking threat and will likely continue on that path this season. However, because Steigleder is out of the picture, opponents will zone in on Aulicino as their biggest threat, posing a challenge to the junior to see if she can remain on top with an even bigger target on her back.
M Rowan Lapi (Sr.)
Lapi established herself as a consistent starter last season and often sat in the holding mid position while occasionally finding herself in the attack. The senior’s strong build allows her to hold off opponents in a way that takes some of the burden off the back line, and her positioning is key to being able to facilitate play through the center third and into the attack. What Northwestern lacked much of outside of Aulicino last season was a controlled flow of play from the back line to targets up top — Lapi will be the key target for this once again, and the goal is she will be able to contribute from a scoring standpoint as well.
F Meg Boade (Jr.)
The ‘Cats are in need of another consistent goal-scorer outside of Aulicino, and while I we were debating on including Del Carmen here instead, but we know Del Carmen has clear goal-scoring ability (though she will need to step up this season as well) and Boade arguably has more to prove. The Colorado native has appeared consistently in her first two years on the team, last year finally scoring her first career goal against William & Mary during non-conference play and cementing herself as a consistent starter. Though she only scored one goal, Boade displayed flashes of super clean footwork in tight spaces and often was able to shake her defenders off in the final third often. If she can truly step into her role as the nine and add scoring production to her dockett, Boade could be just what the ‘Cats need to put more numbers on the board.
Moynihan welcomes eight newbies, including two international prospects and transfer keeper Raben. Recently announced as the ‘Cats final additions to the 2022 class, Caterina Regazzoni of Switzerland and Alisha Ware of the UK will cross the pond to Evanston where they will both tote with them youth national team experience from their respective countries.
Additionally, the ‘Cats welcome Charis Toney, the No. 15 ranked-defender in the class of 2022 from Mountain View, Calif. Toney could see playing time this season with the loss of defender Jules Thron to graduation leaving a hole in Moynihan’s defensive rotation. You can read more about Northwestern women’s soccer’s incoming recruiting class here and here.
The ‘Cats open their season on Sunday in an exhibition match versus Loyola Chicago followed by another exhibition the following weekend at Indiana with regular season play beginning Thursday, August 18 at Kansas State.