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

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

The Daily Northwestern

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Women’s Soccer: NU riding hot streak into tourney

Going into last weekend’s match against Wisconsin, Northwestern was in a no-win situation.

Any result for the Wildcats would produce a first-round match-up against either Penn State or Purdue in the Big Ten tournament, teams that placed first and second in the conference standings. The outcome was a 3-0 victory against Wisconsin and a first-round meeting with the Boilermakers today

Purdue beat NU 5-0 in West Lafayette, Ind., on Sept. 30. The Cats conceded nine goals in two matches over that weekend, which spurred them on to a drastic defensive improvement. NU has conceded only four goals in the eight matches that followed.

“We’ve made huge strides all over the field since then,” senior midfielder Shannon Schneeman said. “Lauren’s been doing so well in goal and our defense has been really solid.”

The Cats have racked up nine shutouts this season, and senior goalkeeper Lauren Johnston has been an inspiring figure at the back for NU.

“We’ve learned a lot as this season has progressed,” Johnston said. “Not only can I can count on the defense, which has been really good, but the whole team, which has really come on as a defensive unit this season.”

The match against Purdue will be a tough test for the new-look Cats, who have propelled themselves to a 3-1-2 record in the past six matches of the Big Ten season.

NU coach Stephanie Erickson said she thinks her team has shown marked improvement since the first weekend of the Big Ten season.

“We’ve handled certain moments of our season very well,” Erickson said. “I think we have combatted what we needed to already, and we’ve tightened up on our defense.”

Even a rejuvenated NU team may not be strong enough against Purdue. The Boilermakers have only last one match against Big Ten opposition this year, falling to Penn State 1-0. Add in last weekend’s dominant 7-0 victory over Indiana and the title of “favorites” would not be lost on Purdue.

Scheeman said she was confident and the team had pinpointed keys to victory.

There have been some surprises in the Big Ten this season: Top-of-the-pile Penn State lost to Minnesota, Illinois was held to a draw at home by NU and Purdue drew with Michigan, a team that has not finish in the top eight spots in the conference and failed to qualify for the Big Ten championship.

Erickson said any team in the Big Ten is capable of beating any other team, and there is not too much of a difference between most teams in the conference.

“From top to bottom, anybody can win the Big Ten this year,” Erickson said.

A key to NU’s hopes will be the plays of its forwards. Senior Kelsey Hans, who has scored nine goals and provided a career-high four assists this season, will be key to the offensive threat for the Cats. For her efforts, she was named to the All-Big Ten second team.

“Kelsey’s had a great senior year,” Erickson said. “She’s scoring goals, has broken a record, got some assists and been a more complete and dangerous forward this year.”

The 5-0 loss will be lingering on the Cats’ minds before today’s first-round match, but Schneeman said the team is confident it can go all the way.

“We want to win, and we expect to win the Big Ten,” Schneeman said.

Reach Pritish Behuria at [email protected].

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Women’s Soccer: NU riding hot streak into tourney