Too little, too late was the story of the week for the Wildcats.
Two losses and a draw kept Northwestern at only one Big Ten win with only four regular season games to go. A 0-0 result against Illinois on Sep. 28 was followed by two failed comebacks against Nebraska (3-2) and at Wisconsin (2-1). In a season that started with such high expectations, fans are left to wonder where things went wrong.
The usually dynamic offense has gone stagnant, managing just six goals in six Big Ten games while getting shut-out thrice. The brick wall of a backline has let up eight goals, with six of those coming in first halves. It seems as though Northwestern has perpetually been on the back foot, not registering a shot in the first half twice. This has forced the ‘Cats to attempt miraculous comebacks, really putting their “Cardiac” nickname to the test.
It seemed like they would get it done against Nebraska when two Emma Phillips set-piece goals brought the score even at 2-2 in the 84th minute. A ferocious push for a winner left the ‘Cats vulnerable, however. One minute after Phillips equalized, Nebraska scored on the counter attack, breaking Northwestern hearts in the process.
Three days later in Madison, the Wildcats needed another comeback. After getting out-shot 6-0 and falling behind 2-0 in the first half, they roared back. Ella Hase scored her seventh of the season in the 48th minute to make it 2-1. Northwestern kept shooting, and a red card by the Wisconsin goalie in the 83rd minute made it feel like the tie was possible. The Badgers knew how to park the bus though, and the ‘Cats found nothing before the full-time whistle blew.
There have certainly been times where it has felt like Lady Luck has not assumed her seat on the ‘Cats bench. Against Illinois, Northwestern managed 18 shots, but not one found the back of the net. There have been shots off the post, or just wide, but a lack of luck cannot necessarily explain away these losses.
Northwestern’s next opportunity to right the ship will come in Iowa City on Oct. 12. If the ‘Cats can’t take care of business there, they’ll have a much harder time finding a win against their next opponent. Rowan Lapi and No. 4 Penn State will be coming to Evanston on Oct. 15. Northwestern will need to bring their A-game, or else what might have been one of the most anticipated matchups of the season could turn ugly.