Cats’ split personality marks Big Ten opener

Jim Martinho

The last time the Northwestern women’s soccer team beat Michigan, the Wildcats’ senior duo of Molly Greene and Aileen Guiney wasn’t on the field. It was 1998; they were still in high school.

Four years and four Wolverines victories later, captains Greene and Guiney weren’t about to stand by and watch another maize and blue celebration at the hands of the Wildcats.

Greene scored the game’s only goal in the 16th minute when she headed home a perfectly placed corner kick from classmate Guiney. The rest of the game shaped up as a fierce defensive battle, and Greene’s goal held up in the Cats’ 1-0 victory.

“Aileen sent an absolutely beautiful ball to the far post, and I was lucky enough to be right there to finish it,” Greene said.

NU improved to 4-3 overall and evened their Big Ten mark at 1-1 after losing the conference opener 3-0 to Michigan State on Friday.

It was the first time since 1998 that NU has beaten the Wolverines, and the team’s first-ever shutout win over last season’s Big Ten .

Most of the game’s action took place in the midfield as shots on goal were few and far between for both squads — the teams combined for nine shots, only three of which were on goal.

The last line of defense in NU’s stingy defensive effort was freshman goalkeeper Whitney Jones. Although she was forced to make only two saves, Jones was a strong presence in goal and has improved rapidly since the beginning of the season.

Coach Jenny Haigh was disappointed with the team’s lack of intensity in the second half against Michigan State. Trailing 1-0 despite controlling the game for the first half and outshooting the Spartans 7-4, the Cats came out like a different team after the break and Jones allowed two goals to put the game away.

NU made sure there would be no two-faced performance Sunday, this time heading into halftime with a lead. The Cats were able to match Michigan’s intensity in the opening minutes of the half and never wavered the rest of the way.

“We knew that we won the first half, so we could come out strong at the beginning of the second half,”Jones said. “We dominated the Michigan State game, and we knew we just needed to finish. We came out with the intensity we should have had Friday and just took it to them.”

Pinpointing weaknesses and finding solutions has been a large reason for the Cats recent improvement. A difficult nonconference season that began with losses to Big 12 powers Kansas and Missouri allowed NU to focus on problems in practice .

Haigh said she was happy with the way the Cats bounced back to salvage a split in the conference season’s opening weekend.

“Coming out with a split against two respectable teams was a good result,” Haigh said. “It’s still early in the Big Ten season, so opening up with a split is important for our own momentum and confidence.”