Big Ten slip-ups reveal weak spots (Woman’s Soccer)

David Morrison

The little things matter.

Like giving Penn State forward Tiffany Weimer enough time to turn with the ball and unleash her lethal right foot twice in the first half of Friday’s 2-1 loss.

Like letting Minnesota forward Becky Dellaria win a through ball and tuck the ball in the upper right corner, past the lunging reach of goalkeeper Whitney Jones, with only 14 minutes left for the only goal in Sunday’s 1-0 defeat.

The little things are more evident in defeat, and it’s the little things that have turned into big problems, keeping Northwestern (7-4-1, 0-3-1 Big Ten) winless through the first two weekends of Big Ten play.

“We’re a good team,” coach Jenny Haigh said, “But we’re maybe getting outworked for stretches of games.”

The Wildcats faced No. 2 Penn State (12-0-0, 4-0-0) without two of their key contributors.

Forward Kelsey Hans, who is tied for the team lead in goals, sat out the game with a concussion suffered in last Sunday’s tie against Iowa. Midfielder Julie Lipinski watched the game from the sidelines, propping herself on crutches after injuring her ankle in practice on Thursday.

Even so, the Cats hung with the Nittany Lions, thanks in a large part to forwards Tabitha Lowey and Krystal Patterson as NU matched Penn State’s shots in the first half.

Patterson, who had only been used as a substitute before the Penn State game, played for 63 minutes and assisted Lowey on the Cats’ only goal.

Only 29 seconds after Weimer scored the Nittany Lions’ first goal, Patterson controlled the ball at midfield and drove down the left side. She cut into the box and crossed the ball into the middle, where Lowey was waiting to put it away.

“I just wanted to go in line and cross it and hope somebody was there,” Patterson said. “Usually (Lowey) is.”

Penn State went ahead six minutes later, as Weimer banged home her 17th of the season.

The Nittany Lions used their speed to keep the Cats on the defensive in the second half, holding them to only five shots.

“We didn’t want them to dictate the way we played,” midfielder Jenny Dunn said, “But I think they did that a little bit.”

Hans returned for Sunday’s game against Minnesota (5-4-2, 3-1-0) and made an immediate impact on the offense, firing nine shots, including one that bounced off the crossbar and another that forced a diving save from the keeper.

The Cats out-shot the Gophers 26-7 and had nine corner kicks while the Gophers had none.

But these statistics were eclipsed by a more important one. None of these chances went in.

Dellaria’s goal set off a barrage of constant attacking on the part of the Cats, but they could not find the goal.

“In the last 20 minutes, we did a lot of the little things,” Haigh said, “But we didn’t for 90 minutes.”

With only one point in Big Ten play, the Wildcats sit tied for last in the conference. Only eight teams receive a berth to the Big Ten tournament, so if the Cats don’t improve on the little things, they could miss out on Big Tens at the end of the season.

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