After reaching the semifinals of last year’s Big Ten Women’s Soccer Tournament, the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament and being voted as the preseason second-best team in the conference, Northwestern’s season has presumably already come to an end — before the start of the 2023 postseason.
The Wildcats missed the cut for this year’s conference playoff competition by finishing tied for ninth in the standings at 3-5-2; Iowa, at 3-4-3, notched the eighth and final berth in the Big Ten Tournament.
Entering their last two games of the season, the ‘Cats had a fighting chance to sneak into the back end of playoff play, sitting at 2-4-1 with contests left against Minnesota and Rutgers. However, the team split the pair of games, which was insufficient to earn a coveted spot.
On Thursday from a rainy Evanston, NU closed out its home season in Martin Stadium against the Golden Gophers. Despite struggling early against UMN’s frenetic play, the Wildcats eventually persevered and cut through. Caterina Regazzoni got Michael Moynihan’s side on the board at the 11:46 mark of the first half, giving Northwestern a 1-0 lead at the break.
Then, the Wildcats contributed two more in the second frame, courtesy of a header from Emma Phillips and a last-minute tack-on shot from Josie Aulicino. Meg Boade notched two more assists, while Reiley Fitzpatrick didn’t allow a goal despite 14 Minnesota shots and 10 corner kicks.
Following the conclusion of its home slate with a victory, Northwestern ventured to Piscataway, New Jersey to battle the Rutgers Scarlet Knights on Sunday. RU got on the board first courtesy of Sara Brocious, a 1-0 score which held until halftime. After the respite, Aulicino answered by tying the game on her sixth goal of the season.
But, the purple momentum halted there. Ashley Baran deposited one at the 76:17 point, putting the home side ahead. The ‘Cats couldn’t convert their lone shot attempt subsequent to that and fell in New Jersey, 2-1.
Collectively, Northwestern ended 9-5-4, a bit of a far cry from its 16-5-2 and stellar 7-2-1 conference record last season. The Wildcats never truly looked the part of a dominant team once they hit Big Ten play, as a five-game stretch without a win proved fateful. NU’s Big Ten Tournament miss proved the second time in three seasons that the purple and white did not qualify for the competition.
Considering that the team returned most of its core roster and star power, it’s difficult to consider 2023 as anything other than a letdown, a consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament incredibly unlikely. With mainstays Aurea del Carmen and Danika Austin having utilized their last year of eligibility — and Aulicino, Boade, Ella Hase and Nicole Doucette just wrapping up their senior campaigns — considerable uncertainty may lie ahead for Moynihan’s program.