Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

28° Evanston, IL
Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Wildcats travel to topple top conference team

Northwestern will try to avenge last weekend’s loss and return to its winning ways Saturday when the Wildcats open Big Ten play against conference-leading Penn State. The Cats’ five-game winning streak was snapped by Louisville last Sunday.

The Nittany Lions (9-1) are riding a nine-game winning streak and have not lost a game since their season opener Aug. 27. Penn State has held its opponents under two goals in all but one game this season and has recorded five shutouts.

“Their overall team is strong,” coach Kelly McCollum said. “They have a lot of production on their offense and they have some tremendous defensive performances. Our team is different from any team Penn State has seen this season, and it should be a competitive and even-matched game.”

NU (5-2) comes into the weekend with an offense led by senior Ellen Schlafly, junior Meghan Small and freshman Jill Putnam, who have each scored two goals in at least one game this season. The Cats will try to be the first team to record a goal against the Nittany Lions in three games.

Junior goalkeeper Sherri-Anne Nyberg anchors the NU defense. The Cats have not allowed more than three goals in a game this season, with three contests requiring an overtime period.

McCollum said her team does not feel any added pressure when it plays Big Ten opponents, but the games can be previews of matchups for the conference tournament.

“There’s something about the Big Ten season,” McCollum said. “It sets you up for the postseason. We take it one step at a time.”

After the game against Penn State, the Cats will remain in Pennsylvania to face Bucknell on Sunday. The Bison (3-5) have won three of their last five contests after opening the season with three straight losses.

This back-to-back set is the second of four times the Cats will play two consecutive games. The lack of a day off should not affect the Cats’ performance, McCollum said.

“We don’t prepare any differently,” she said. “You try to cover the tendencies of both teams.”

McCollum said the Cats’ biggest strengths are the players’ preparedness and the team’s confidence as a whole. NU will rely on its consistent offensive performance this weekend, McCollum said.

“I think our kids have committed to constant daily competition and improvement, and it will show in our results,” McCollum said. “We have been able to jump ahead in the majority of our games, and that has helped us develop a feeling of confidence.”

After dropping their season opener, the Cats have won five of their last six games dating back to Sept. 3.

“Our team is very prepared to go to Penn State this weekend,” McCollum said, “and make a statement for where this team is going.”

Reach Jason Prager at [email protected].

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Wildcats travel to topple top conference team