The Northwestern women’s soccer team is ready for a rematch.
The Wildcats (5-4-1, 9-7-2) finished off the Big Ten regular season in fifth place after a scoreless match against in-state rival Illinois (5-3-2, 11-4-2) on Friday. And then, the Cats ended the weekend with an emotional letdown, losing to Illinois State 2-1.
“The loss to Illinois State closed the door on an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament,” NU coach Jenny Haigh said. “The only way to get in now is to win the Big Ten tournament.”
Despite Sunday’s disappointing loss, the Cats already are looking toward their first-round matchup with Illinois in the Big Ten Tournament on Nov. 4.
Unlike regular season games, tournament games can’t end in a tie. If teams are tied following an overtime period, they go into a shootout to determine the winner.
NU midfielder Shannon Schneeman said the Cats’ play during their tie against Illinois game revealed holes in their offense — something they’ll focus on at practice in the next two weeks.
“We can improve our overall attack,” the sophomore captain said. “I think we both had very good chances, we’re really excited to play them again.”
Illinois nearly handed NU its first home loss since Aug. 27 with two offensive attacks that tested NU’s defense and goalkeeper Whitney Jones, who prevented the Fighting Illini from triumphing in overtime.
Jones had five saves in the game and the Cats defense made two critical saves on the goal line.
Illinois outshot NU 16-4, but Schneeman said the shot count did not reflect the flow of the game.
“I think that we both had very good chances,” she said. “We were OK with how we played the game.”
On Sunday, the weekend worsened for the Cats with a road loss to Illinois State (8-5-3).
The match was scoreless at the half, but two goals from Illinois State in the first 15 minutes of the second half put NU down 2-0.
Illinois State is the only unranked team since Missouri — the Cats’ first opponent this year — to net two goals past the NU defense.
“The loss to (Illinois State) was kind of rough,” Schneeman said. “We did not come out ready to play.”
A goal by freshman Kelsey Hans in the 71st minute lifted the Cats, but they didn’t find the back of the net again.
Haigh blamed the loss on the players’ lax attitude after Friday’s high-intensity game.
“We had a letdown,” she said. “We didn’t as a team look like we were ready to compete.”
Besides ending the weekend with a demoralizing defeat, the loss to Illinois State put more pressure on the Cats to win the Big Ten tournament. Even though, they are seeded behind national powerhouses Penn State and Ohio State, the Cats still think they have a shot to win the tournament.
“I know we can play with anyone in the conference,” Haigh said. “We just can’t afford to be average.”
Reach Nina Mandell at [email protected]
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“I think we both had very good chances, we’re really excited to play them again.”