Coach requests urgency (women’s soccer)

Nina Mandell

It may only be two games into the Big Ten season, but for coach Jenny Haigh, the Northwestern women’s soccer team is halfway to the level of play she expects.

The Wildcats (4-4, 0-2 Big Ten) fell to the bottom of the conference after season-opening weekend losses to Michigan State and No. 25 Michigan. Despite freshman Kelsey Hans’ two goals in two games, both matches ended in 3-2 losses for the Cats.

Still, Haigh said the close scores against tough opponents showed NU is ready to take on anyone.

“We’ve proven we can compete with really, really good teams,” she said. “We just need to be more consistent.”

With 12 of the team’s 18 goals this season coming in the second half or during overtime, Haigh said NU can’t continue to count on last second surges to win a match.

“Being a second-half team is a little too late against great competition,” she said.

But before the Big Ten season began, being a second-half team earned the Cats four wins and helped them head into the Big Ten opener with a winning record.

Hans, who scored six goals in the first six games, and tallied two more last weekend, has already tied the school record for most goals in a season by a freshman.

Hans scored her first game-winning goal in a 1-0 victory over Samford, and she extended matches against Missouri and Brigham Young into overtime with second-half strikes.

The Brigham Young loss, Hans said, showed the team’s key to success was to maintain a consistent level of intensity.

“We need to play as hard as we do in the second half,” she said. “BYU was the first really good team that we played that showed us we can play with the better teams in the division.”

The Cats said their team can reach the level of consistency necessary to qualify for Big Ten postseason play.

Haigh pointed to sophomores Whitney Jones and Shannon Schneeman, two of the team’s four captains, as model players.

Jones, the goalkeeper, has notched three shutouts, including two 1-0 victories.

“They’re great players,” Haigh said. “Whitney has so much positive energy, and Shannon is so practical and steady.”

After playing six matches that have been decided by one goal, enduring three overtime games and allowing disproportionate numbers of second-half goals, the Cats are craving consistency in their offense.

With 11 matches left until the Big Ten Tournament, the Cats will look to their already improved defense and fresh faces on offense to give them the push they need to earn postseason success.

Despite the Cats’ overtime victories and close losses, Haigh said this season’s matches haven’t reached their full adrenaline potential.

“We’re still waiting for our most exciting win to happen,” Haigh said. “We need to collectively have a really high standard to the way we compete and our urgency.”

Reach Nina Mandell at [email protected]