After nine months without it, Northwestern women’s soccer is finally back. We’ve had quite a bit of preseason coverage the past few weeks here at Inside NU, but now it’s time to talk about the real thing. To the pitch!
Aug. 17 at Marquette
The ‘Cats were getting tired of dawdling and twiddling their thumbs. They wanted to play soccer, dang it! Their opportunity finally came Aug. 17 when the Golden Eagles screeched out, “Play us!” Marquette would soon come to regret that challenge, as Northwestern had its way with its northern neighbors.
Eager might be the best description for Northwestern’s play. Ella Hase wasted no time putting the ‘Cats on the board 39 seconds in, scoring the second-fastest goal in program history. First-year Holland Carey earned a hockey assist on the play with the first touch of her career, while Meg Boade took on the keeper and put through the final ball to find Hase for a sitter.
Three minutes later, Boade decided that she needed a goal of her own. When the ball fell to her at the top of the 18, she seized her opportunity, rifling one past the keeper into the top right corner.
.@meg_boade with a BANGER pic.twitter.com/4SP0kArLTu— Northwestern Soccer (@NUWSoccer) August 18, 2023
A 2-0 lead is nothing to scoff at, but why not keep going? Josie Aulicino had that same thought in the fifteenth minute. Lining up at the corner flag, Aulicino floated one to the back post. None other than Emma Phillips was there to receive it, and she buried a header for what could be the first of many set-piece goals this season.
After three goals in the first fifteen minutes, the Wildcats continued attacking, placing six shots in the final 30 minutes of the first half. None found the back of the net, but Northwestern remained on the front foot regardless.
It was Aulicino who wanted to score next. She took three shots to start the second half to no avail, but her fourth try was the charm. A pass from Hase found Aulicino about 20 yards from the goal, which No. 8 absolutely lasered past the goalie. A 4-0 lead 77 minutes in was more than enough, and the ‘Cats left Milwaukee 1-0-0. Northwestern out-shot Marquette 19-7, with the Wildcat goalie tandem of Reiley Fitzpatrick and Gina Muzi handling all four of the Golden Eagles’ shots on target.
Aug. 20 vs Kansas State
After a strong start an hour and a half north, Northwestern returned to the lakeside for its home opener. The Wildcats’ opponent? The Wildcats. Kansas State made the trip up to Evanston to see what being a purple feline was all about. While Northwestern was surely able to prove its superiority in all other facets, the ‘Cats were unable to do so on the pitch. An early season tie is not the end of the world, but it stings to know that a win was attainable.
Northwestern attacked early and often, taking seven shots in the first 15 minutes. The ‘Cats entered halftime with a 12-0 shot advantage but nothing to show for it on the board. They kept looking for that breakthrough goal, but it never came despite a 19-3 shot advantage.
Breaking through tough opposing defenses will need to be something Michael Moynihan’s squad needs to figure out going forward. If opposing teams realize that they can just park the bus, this season will get boring, fast. Does it really count as an undefeated season if you tie every game? (My JV soccer team in high school would say yes – undefeated in 2019 with only one win). For now, have faith that this team can and will score, but finding that final ball will only become more difficult once Big Ten play begins.
One bright spot for the ‘Cats despite the disappointing result was the discipline.
Northwestern only had two fouls to KState’s 14, avoiding any yellow cards for the second game in a row. Committing fewer fouls than the opponent usually works out, so it’s a positive sign early.
Summertime Chi is a tough place to leave, so the ‘Cats (1-0-1) will remain at home for their next contest. Their opponent might take time to visit Wrigley, as they’re reeling from the loss of their local MLB team– *Scratch that. I am hearing that Oakland University is NOT in California. Please disregard the previous comment*– Their opponents will be making their way down from Michigan for the second half of a home-and-home that began last season. This matchup ended in a 0-0 tie last year, so the ‘Cats will be hungry to take down the Golden Grizzlies (1-1-0). The match is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. CT on Aug. 24.
The ‘Cats aren’t able to stay by the better lake forever though. They’ll be heading to Toledo to end the week, trading Lake Michigan for the inferior Lake Erie. The Rockets aren’t the most formidable opponent on paper, going 2-10-6 last season, but Northwestern needs to be sure not to overlook them. The ‘Cats will see if they can take care of business on Aug. 27 at 12:00 p.m. CT.
As Northwestern continues on this season, be on the lookout for lineup adjustments. In the first two games, only one new player featured in the starting XI for the ‘Cats. These next few weeks before Big Ten play will be an opportunity to let the first-years and newcomers on the pitch show what they can do.