I think nine is one of my favorite numbers. It’s aesthetically pleasing. It is a perfect square. It does very cool things with its multiplication tables. And it just so happens to be where Northwestern is ranked in the latest United Soccer Coaches pool, so that might have some bearing on my opinion too. Let’s see what led to the nine-spot jump for the ‘Cats.
Sept. 18 vs. Purdue University
A beautiful day in Evanston led to a beautiful product on the pitch as Northwestern beat Purdue 3-0 to kick off Big Ten play.
The ‘Cats established their dominance in the fifth minute when junior forward Ella Hase snuck one past the the Boilermaker keeper after an assist from senior midfielder Lily Gilbertson. Exactly 15 minutes later (4:36 on the first goal, 19:36 on the second goal), Meg Boade, another junior forward, executed on a cross from senior defender Danika Austin to make it 2-0. About nine minutes later (told you nine is a good number...), junior midfielder Josie Aulicino scored Northwestern’s third and final goal thanks to assists from Boade and senior forward Aurea del Carmen.
Northwestern dominated possession and took 12 total shots. Only three of those were on target, but, then again, all three went in. The defense was the real star of the show, only allowing Purdue to take seven shots, none of which were on target, which made Reiley Fitzpatrick and Mia Raben’s days in goal very easy.
I hope Purdue enjoyed its train ride back home, because the fans in Martin Stadium sure were fans of the game. This was the first match with students back on campus, and they showed out for the Big Ten opener. The official count only shows that 542 fans were in attendance, which is higher than the 481.6 fans that the ‘Cats average, but the stands felt even more packed and lively than the numbers suggest.
Sept. 22 at Nebraska
A journey to the middle of nowhere — where the cackles of the ghost of Scott Frost and his $15 million buyout echo through the streets — may be daunting for some, but not for Northwestern women’s soccer.
A first-minute goal for Nebraska put the ‘Cats behind for the first time since their Sep. 1 victory at DePaul, but the team rallied and netted three goals in the next 28 minutes. First-year Caterina Regazzoni found the equalizer all by herself in the eighth minute. Boade then scored what was technically the game-winner in the 24th minute off assists by Gilbertson and Hase. Del Carmen converted the third goal of the flurry in the 29th minute after an assist from Regazzoni. Nebraska scored again just seconds before halftime to come within one, stirring up whispers about a possible upset. Boade nonchalantly quelled those rumors in the 70th minute with her second goal of the match, assisted by Regazzoni.
Nebraska actually outperformed Northwestern in all statistical categories except for goals scored and saves made. The Cornhuskers took 14 shots on goal with 10 on target, compared to 13 shots and eight on the mark for the ‘Cats. Nebraska also had more corners (six vs. three) and fewer fouls (14 vs. 18), but again, those stats aren’t what win games. Goalies like Raben, whose eight (!!!) saves marked new season high, are what lead to victories.
The ability to win a messier and more chaotic game like this shows that this squad is prepared for anything and has the necessary resilience to come from behind, which should prove extremely effective come postseason.
Sept. 25 at Minnesota
This is now the second ‘golden’ team the ‘Cats have played this season (see: Oakland University Golden Grizzlies), and this result was more favorable than the last, with the Wildcats taking down the Golden Gophers 2-1.
Gilbertson declared the back of Minnesota’s goal open for business in the 24th minute, making a transaction after an assist from Hase. It would remain 1-0 for about 45 minutes until Sadie Harper equalized for the Gophs in the 69th minute. Senior midfielder Rowan Lapi responded in a hurry, though, slotting home the game-winner for Northwestern in the 71st minute off the assist from Aulicino.
Accuracy was the name of the game for the ‘Cats on offense. They totaled eight shots, seven of which were on target. An impressive effort from Minnesota goalie Megan Plaschko (five saves) was the only thing that kept this from being a blowout in Northwestern’s favor. Northwestern’s goalkeeping was nearly as impressive, with both keepers earning two saves each.
Breaking down all these goals, assists and saves has me itching to see who the team stat leaders are, so why don’t we take a look?
Mid-Season Stats Update
This is a team sport, so let’s inspect the team totals first.
Northwestern has scored 23 goals over 11 games, good for an average of 2.09 goals per contest. NU has taken a whopping 148 shots, which makes for an average of 13.5 shots per game, over half of which are on goal (.514, or 76 out of 148). The Wildcats also have 28 assists and 26 saves.
Now, to see who the top contributors are.
Aulicino is the mid-season MVP, totaling the most points (16), shots (25), shots on goal (18), goals (five), and assists (six). Boade is the next-highest goal scorer with four, and Lapi and del Carmen fall close behind with three apiece. Del Carmen and Hase are tied for second in the assists category with four each.
The last stat I want to highlight is one that isn’t on the official Northwestern statistics pages, but still definitely worth noting. Austin made her second team of the week (Top Drawer Soccer) after her performance against Purdue thanks to her assist and major role in the shutout.
The No. 4 Scarlet Knights of Rutgers will be riding in from out east in an attempt to lay siege to the shores of Evanston. The Northwestern Wildcats will do what they can to stand in their way, putting NU’s seven-game win streak on the line. The ‘Cats cannot hold them off alone, though. They need you, the loyal fans, out in full force standing by their side.
Thursday night. 7 PM. Martin Stadium. Be there. No excuses (streaming on B1G+ if you have conflicts, but still, no excuses). There is literally free admission.
After battling the Scarlet Knights, the ‘Cats will travel down I-57 for an arguably more important matchup against bitter rival Illinois. The nemeses face off for the 21st time on Sunday, October 2 at 1 PM on Big Ten Network.