2nd-half run carries Cats to comeback (Women’s Soccer)

Jim Martinho

After the Northwestern women’s soccer team dropped its first two games of the season to Big 12 powers Missouri and Kansas, few would have expected what followed: a stretch of six wins in seven games, including a 3-1 comeback win over Iowa on Saturday.

But the recent hot streak has been no surprise to sophomore Julie Lipinski.

“It’s a great feeling we have going right now, but we’re not surprised,” Lipinski said. “We know we should be there with every team, and it’s happening this year. We are good and we’re proving it. We don’t want to stop here, we want to keep it going.”

Lipinski assisted on two of the Wildcats’ three second-half goals — which came in a span of 13 minutes — as NU improved to 2-1 in the Big Ten and 6-3 overall. After a scoreless first half, Iowa’s Courtney Wilkerson fired an unassisted goal into the upper left corner of the net in the first minute after halftime.

After the Hawkeyes controlled the ball for most of the first half, suddenly finding themselves down a goal lit a fire underneath the Cats. Junior Ashleigh Garmon handled a pass from Lipinski and beat Iowa goalkeeper Britta Vogele to even the score 10 minutes later.

Lipinski then sent a perfect cross into the box that was headed past Vogele by sophomore Tabitha Lowey in the 64th minute.

“As soon as any goal goes in we’re upset, especially in a Big Ten game and because we had less than 45 minutes to get it back,” senior Molly Greene said. “I was happy with the way we responded. The fact that we came back shows a lot of character.”

Senior Kristen Pearce put the game away less than five minutes after Lowey’s goal when she scored on a breakaway after Vogele left the net to go after the ball. Pearce avoided Vogele and sent the ball into the far side of the net for a 3-1 lead.

Despite dropping its first two matches to strong teams, Haigh and NU players had no regrets about their season-opening baptism by fire.

“In our first games we were dealt a tough hand,” Greene said. “It let us know where we had to step up as a team, and it was great preparation to see what our weaknesses were.”

After the 0-2 start, NU has shown its ability to play at the level of any team in the Big Ten. The Cats will need the confidence they’ve built in the last two wins on an upcoming stretch of six road games in eight games.

Coach Jenny Haigh specifically praised the improvement of the Cats’ defense — including the play of freshman goalkeeper Whitney Jones.

“Our back line and our keeper have steadily gotten better since opening weekend,” Haigh said. “They look more experienced and seasoned even halfway into the season. Up top we’ve found some people to score; goals are coming from different people each game.”

Greene, a senior sweeper, was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week for her part in a 1-0 shutout of Loyola and holding Iowa to only two shots on goal.

Greene said the award was a reflection of the whole team’s improvement.

“I definitely concentrate more on wins and losses, and whatever awards we get are just byproducts of how the team is playing,” Greene said. “I actually hadn’t even heard about the award until my dad happened to see it on the Internet.”