Double trouble: Ranked conference opponents upend NU (women’s soccer)

Nina Mandell

No Big Ten team has managed to beat No. 3 Penn State or No. 19 Ohio State this season, and despite a strong defensive effort, the Northwestern women’s soccer team couldn’t topple either team.

The Wildcats (7-6-1) dropped to 3-4 in conference and sit in the bottom four of the league after facing their toughest opposition of the season.

NU freshman forward Kelsey Hans said while the team was disappointed with its 2-1 loss at Ohio State on Friday, the players were proud to stick with Penn State, the Big Ten’s top dog, in Sunday’s 1-0 road loss.

“We played really well against Penn State,” Hans said. “We could’ve tied it up a couple of times.”

Eleven was the magic number for the Cats against Ohio State (8-2-3, 4-0-3, Big Ten) with Hans scoring her 11th goal of the season and goalkeeper Whitney Jones having a career-high 11 saves.

“Whitney Jones had a great weekend,” NU coach Jenny Haigh said. “She was really solid.”

Against Ohio State, Hans scored in the first half on an assist from Shannon Schneeman on a chance Hans called, “being in the right place at the right time.”

But Hans’ first-half goal wasn’t enough to hand Ohio State its first conference loss. The Buckeyes tied the score in the 63rd minute and neither team found the back of the net in regulation, sending the Cats into their sixth overtime match of the season. The Cats’ overtime experience and gritty play from Jones couldn’t stop Ohio State from capitalizing on a chance five minutes into the overtime period.

For their efforts against NU, Ohio State’s Lisa Grubb, who tallied both goals against the Cats, and Penn State’s Tiffany Weimer, who netted her 15th goal of the season to down NU, were named co-Big Ten Offensive Players of the Week.

Haigh said Weimer, who is “one of the best forwards in the country,” and the Penn State offense took advantage of Cats’ defensive miscues on Sunday.

Weimer notched a goal in the beginning of the second half, thwarting NU’s chances of upsetting the perennial national power. The Nittany Lions (11-1-1, 7-0) managed numerous other scoring opportunities, but Jones shut them down.

Penn State controlled the ball for most of the game, outshooting the Cats 10-4 and nabbing eight more corner kicks than the Cats.

NU kept pace with the Nittany Lions, but Haigh said her team needed a flawless effort to defeat Penn State.

“[To be able to beat them] we have to do everything right, minimize mistakes, play hard, play well, play together, and really compete,” Haigh said.

The Cats had a few chances to tie up the score, including one ball that eluded the Penn State goalie but was saved by a Nittany Lions defender.

Hans said the Cats proved through several spurts that they’re capable of playing with the nation’s elite teams. But they’re still searching for consistency.

“I’m disappointed we didn’t get any conference points,” Haigh said, “but I feel like our game against Penn State gave us lots of reasons to have confidence and be excited about this upcoming weekend.”

Reach Nina Mandell at [email protected]