You might be thinking, “It’s not soccer season, why’s there an update?” Well, first of all, it’s always soccer season, so there’s that. But, secondly, it’s because there’s some important news.
Danika Austin, Aurea del Carmen and Lily Gilbertson are coming back.
You heard me right.
' .@lilygilbertson0, @ddaustin29, and @aureadelcarmen will return for a fifth season in Evanston.— Northwestern Soccer (@NUWSoccer) March 23, 2023
Following the success of last season, the three seniors are using their extra year of eligibility to run it back. Their presence will be felt in all facets of the game.
Austin will assume her position on the backline, leading a defense that only allowed 18 goals last season. Starting every game for the ‘Cats and tallying the most minutes (2,054) last season, she scored one goal and dished out three assists. Her impressive season was recognized when she was named to the All-Big Ten Third Team. Overall, Austin has started 70 games for Northwestern with two goals and eight assists over her career.
While Austin keeps the defense locked down, del Carmen will take her place at striker, ready to terrorize opposing goalies for another year. She tied for third in goals scored last season with six, but the speedster also contributed five assists, giving her 17 points on the season. She put the Big Ten on notice, and the conference acknowledged it, rewarding her with Second Team honors. She was also named to the United Soccer Coaches Third Team for the All-North Region. Over her four year career, del Carmen has appeared in all 70 games, making 51 starts (23 last season), and totaling 12 goals and seven assists.
Gilbertson, the final Wildcat making her return, will be back on the wings, facilitating the high-flying offense. The Minnesotan scored only one goal last season, but she handed out assists like candy, recording five, including the dime that led to Emma Phillips’ iconic bicycle kick. Gilbertson started the final 21 games of the Wildcats’ season after coming off the bench in the first two. For her career, she took the pitch in 68 total games with 47 starts (three goals, seven assists).
This trio’s return should also help mask the departure of fellow senior Rowan Lapi. Lapi, a midfielder, was a force both offensively and defensively, but she elected to transfer to Penn State for her fifth year. Her production will be missed (six goals, three assists), but head coach Michael Moynihan was active in the portal as well. The ‘Cats inked midfielder Jaelyn Eisenhart from USC as a replacement. Eisenhart, also a graduate transfer, appeared in 68 with 42 starts for the Trojans over her four years, scoring two goals and three assists.
The Wildcats are looking to build upon one of their best seasons in recent memory, in which they finished second in the Big Ten and made a Sweet 16 appearance in the NCAA Tournament, breaking multiple program records in the process. Getting these three stars back furthers that commitment. They clearly can’t wait for the fall, and it can’t come soon enough. See y’all on the lakeside.