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Northwestern 2023 sports were (generally) awesome

Across all sports, the ‘Cats gave us a year to remember.

NCAA Womens Lacrosse: NCAA Lacrosse Championship Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

Izzy Scane. Boo Buie. Danielle Williams. Evan Hull. Bente Baekers. Josie Aulicino. Chase Audige. Stephen Hrustich. Caileigh Walsh. Peter Skoronski. The list of Northwestern athletes who had outstanding seasons goes on. It was undeniably a successful 2022-23 year for NU athletics overall, with the ‘Cats finding success in all three seasons.

In the fall, football was admittedly a tough watch. Fans got to bask in the win against Nebraska in Ireland for a couple weeks at the beginning of the season. Hope was present on campus when students began to trickle in, but they wouldn’t see any more wins for the remainder of the season. Hull, now an Indianapolis Colt, was the team’s most exciting offensive weapon to watch, posting nearly 1,500 all-purpose yards.

While Pat Fitzgerald’s team struggled, women’s sports kept fans engaged during the fall season. Field hockey was 20-5 in the regular season, and 5-3 in the Big Ten. They had a goal differential of plus-33, a dominant figure.

The season came to an end against North Carolina in the NCAA Championship, but it’s difficult to classify a championship appearance as a failure (Giannis would have our heads). While the result of that contest didn’t go the ‘Cats’ way, they had a memorable campaign that soothed some of the sting of watching the football team lose every Saturday to teams like the Southern Illinois Salukis.

Baekers was terrific, netting 25 goals to go along with eight assists. Her 58 points were nearly 30 more than anyone else on the roster. Annabel Skubisz was solid in goal as well.

Women’s soccer also had a great season in the fall, shattering its expectations by finishing with a 16-5-2 record (7-2-1 B1G). Aulicino led the team in goals with nine. Meg Boade was second with seven, five of them coming in conference play. The ‘Cats won their first two games in the NCAA Tournament, but bowed out in the Sweet 16 against UCLA.

The winter was all about men’s hoops. Head coach Chris Collins got as much as he could out of this year’s group, leading them to the school’s second March Madness appearance ever. Campus was abuzz with excitement as the ‘Cats continued to rack up wins, finishing with a 22-12 record (12-8 B1G).

The backcourt of Chase Audige and Boo Buie was special to watch, and fans also got to see a young talent in Brooks Barnhizer grow into a huge role as the season wore on. The high point of the season came against Purdue at Welsh-Ryan Arena in February when the ‘Cats knocked off the number one team in the nation and students poured onto the court in celebration.

The ‘Cats weren’t especially successful in postseason play, losing in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament and falling to UCLA in the Round of 32 at the Big Dance, but it felt like a season they can build upon. Collins was active in the transfer portal, his most notable acquisition being Ryan Langborg from Princeton, and Buie is coming back. Look out for this Northwestern team again next year. It will be looking to make more memories.

The women’s team was in more of a transition year, finishing 9-21 (2-16 B1G), but Walsh took a step up and was fun to watch all season. In the Big Ten Tournament, the ‘Cats fell 63-59 against Rutgers, barely missing out on a second round appearance.

Wrestling also went 7-3 (5-2 B1G), and Lucas Davidson took fifth place in the NCAA Championships over Zach Elam from Missouri.

Spring was another wildly successful season for Northwestern. It was capped off by the lacrosse NCAA championship victory in which Izzy Scane took the world by storm, leading the ‘Cats to victory.

The magical run to the title was an enthralling watch that captivated Wildcat fans as a championship seemed more and more possible game after game. The team lost one time all year. You read that right; it lost ONE time, and it came almost four months ago. It capped the season off with a trouncing of Boston College, 18-6, to take home the trophy. This was the best team in the country. There’s no doubt about it.

Scane put up nearly incomprehensible numbers with 99 goals and 35 assists. Erin Coykendall and Hailey Rhatigan added to the veteran presence and put up pretty great scoring numbers themselves. First-year player Madison Taylor also stood out, scoring 53 goals for the ‘Cats.

Not to be ignored is the season that the softball team treated fans to this spring. While NU baseball had a season to forget, softball competed into the postseason, falling in the Super Regional to Alabama. The ‘Cats also took home a Big Ten title over Indiana thanks to a walk-off home run by Maeve Nelson to cap off a come-from-behind 2-1 victory.

Danielle Williams was the ace, pitching to a 2.22 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP in the circle this year. On the offensive side of the ball, Jordyn Rudd led the team in OPS with a 1.007, and first-year Kansas Robinson came on strong late, signifying a promising future at Northwestern.

This year, Northwestern sports had its lows. But they pale in comparison to the highs. These teams gave fans moments to remember this year, and many met or surpassed expectations. The state of sports overall at the university is positive, and there is optimism for the future in many sports. Even football. Hey, Ben Bryant is coming. You never know….