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Roundtable: Breakout 2022 fall athlete

So much variety!

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Photo courtesy of Ryan Kuttler.

From what we’ve witnessed in the little bit of competition played so far, it’s looking like Northwestern’s fall teams are bound to be as exciting as ever. Here are some players our staff thinks could make their names known as their seasons continue:

Sarah Effress - M Aurea Del Carmen, women’s soccer

Aurea Del Carmen, formerly Aurea Martin, played in every game for the ‘Cats last season and came out of the gates strong. She scored two goals in her first three games and then struggled to find the back of the net — a symptom experienced by almost every attacking player on Michael Moynihan’s squad in 2021. However, she finally became a consistent starter out wide toward the end of last season, and with a strengthened midfield alongside her now, Del Carmen has a huge opportunity to jumpstart and lead Northwestern’s offense, which I believe she can do.

Bradley Locker - OH Kathryn Randorf, volleyball

Shane Davis and Northwestern volleyball tallied their best recruiting class in program history this offseason, adding three star signees. One of which was Randorf, an outside hitter from Chagrin Falls, Ohio that ranked as the 17th overall recruit in the Class of 2022. Current All-Big Ten selection Temi Thomas-Ailara led the ‘Cats in kills during her first year in 2019, and it’s easy to envision similar success for Randorf. Though Davis has excellent outside hitters in Thomas-Ailara and Hanna Lesiak, it will be tough to keep Randorf’s teeming talent off the floor.

Iggy Dowling - Emily Casaclang, cross country

Casaclang already has the speed to emerge as a key piece on Northwestern’s top seven this fall. She posted the team’s best mile and 1500 meter times during the track season. The junior improved her endurance along the way, breaking the 17-minute barrier in the 5K at the Raleigh Relays in March after running most of the race from the front. Athough Casaclang didn’t race for the ‘Cats at the Midwest Regionals, her 6K time at the Big Ten Championships on a hilly Penn State course marked a 49-second improvement from her performance the year prior on a mostly flat course in Indiana. With a little more tactical experience, she could become a back-end scorer for Northwestern in November.

Gavin Dorsey - Ava Earl, cross country

As a first-year last season, Earl didn’t race much in the fall, only running a 4K at the Hawkeye Invitational. However, she set fire to the track in the spring. Earl consistently finished among the top of the team in the back half of the year, highlighted by a personal-best 16:49 5K and 4:55 4x1600 split at Drake Relays. Only time will tell if this track speed can translate to the cross country courses, but the Alaska native could have a big season ahead of her.

Daniel Olinger - DE Adetomiwa Adebawore, football

Not exactly a breakout considering he was the football team’s best defender in 2021, but I started Adebawore Island back in the fall of 2020, and I am going to stick with it, gosh darn it. The super speedy lineman is finally getting the national recognition he deserves, making Bruce Feldman’s College Football Freaks list and should hear his name called on draft day next year barring the unforeseen. Entering his third year of starting experience and hopefully having more help from his fellow defensive linemen in the trenches, expect an all-conference, it not All-American season from the senior edge rusher.

Sarah Meadow - F Meg Boade, Women’s Soccer

I know the prompt is ‘athlete to watch,’ but I’m going to go with overall this team is one to watch. Literally, watch this highlight-reel from Thursday night:

While the women’s soccer ‘Cats haven’t had a winning season since 2018, I think Boade is the key to this year’s success alongside Josie Aulicino and a barrage of new talent. With her long stride and now in her third year, I think she is due for a breakout season. She comes from a pedigree of soccer stardom, as her older sister played at Duke and is now with the North Carolina Courage.

John Olsen - D Brandon Clagette, men’s soccer

If Coach Russell Payne continues with a back three like he did at the end of last season, Clagette is going to have a big year. A sophomore transfer from Pitt, Clagette fits perfectly into the right wingback position in this system. He brings an ideal blend of a progressive mindset with the ball as well as impeccable defensive instincts — something that was missing in that area of the pitch for the ‘Cats in 2021. The Atlanta-native will receive major playing time in his first year on campus, and strong contributions in and out of possession should follow.

Jason Boué - QB Jack Lausch, football

Call me bullish on the true freshman, or maybe just in dire need of a quarterback savior, but I think Jack Lausch could be the one the fans have been waiting for. The dual-threat quarterback out of Oak Lawn’s Brother Rice was a three-star recruit per 247Sports, but his play far exceeds his ranking. As a multi-sport athlete in high school (he was originally committed to Notre Dame for baseball), he earned All-State Academic honors and Chicago Catholic League Blue Player of the Year. From watching tape, I have seen that he is a dynamic quarterback with a strong arm, and from what I’ve heard he is a capable leader and respected teammate. I’m growing tired of the Ryan Hilinski experiment, so why not give future fan-favorite Lausch a shot? There’s not much to lose.

Sophia Vlahakis - RB Cam Porter, football

Technically, Cam Porter proved his talent back in 2020. After a slow start, the true first-year became an engine for the offense—in the final three games against Illinois, Ohio State and Auburn, Porter rushed 301 of his team-leading 333 yards. But, there’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding Porter: he missed last season to a preseason injury, and Pat Fitzgerald has a few respectable running back options like Evan Hull available. Nonetheless, I’m confident Porter’s anticipated return won’t disappoint. If the offense is going to put up numbers, the junior will be a key player. 2020 was just a preview of what Cam Porter has to offer.

Sam Richardson - Chris Zhang, men’s golf

Though golf is technically a spring sport by way of the NCAA Tournament, the team does play a fair number of tournaments in the fall. Zhang, a junior, has not yet secured any big victories in any college or amateur tour, but he has shown promise. Oftentimes, one round has spelled defeat, shooting his way into an insurmountable deficit. In the past amateur season though, he’s shown he can compete against top competition, playing near the leaders when he avoids a high scoring round. If he can mitigate his inconsistent rounds, he can avoid losing significant strokes and stay at the top of the pack.