Undefeated NU tries for 33 in a row

Jimmy Mitchell

With only four games left on its regular season schedule, Northwestern is attempting to do what it has done only once during its run of three consecutive championships: finish the season undefeated.

The Wildcats ended the 2005 season with a perfect 17-0 mark before going on to claim the first championship of its recent streak. The 2006 and 2007 campaigns, while both ultimately resulting in victory, each saw the Cats finish with a 16-1 record.

In a year in which younger players have had to step up due to the departure of veteran players such as Aly Josephs and Kristen Kjellman, an undefeated season would be an incredible achievement, even by NU’s own lofty standards.

But the Cats don’t spend too much time focusing on the record books, junior midfielder Ali Jacobs said.

“(Finishing the season undefeated) is not really important,” Jacobs said. “We try to take every game one at a time, and hopefully the hard work pays off and we’ll come out with a win. But it’s definitely not something that we think about. We obviously have the goal of being the best team that we can be, but it’s not something that we drive ourselves crazy over.

NU’s push for four more victories begins Sunday, when the top-ranked Cats (12-0) travel to University Park, Penn., to take on Penn State (3-8) at 11 a.m.

The Nittany Lions are the last unranked team to play against the Cats this season, as NU will end the year facing No 16. John Hopkins, No. 10 North Carolina and No. 6 Penn.

After dropping four of its first five meetings with Penn State, NU has won five straight over the Nittany Lions by an average of more than 10 goals per game.

But the Cats are not looking past the team immediately ahead of them in the schedule, Jacobs said.

“Penn State had a big game against Loyola a couple weeks ago, and there a team that’s always been very good,” she said, referencing the Nittany Lions’ 10-7 victory on March 30.

“We think of it as, ‘We can’t move on to the last three games of the season unless we get through Penn State first.’ So we try to prepare for every team the same and try to focus on ourselves too. We’re not overlooking anyone.”

With only four seniors on its roster – of which only one, defender Christy Finch, plays regularly – NU is in the midst of a transition from one generation to the next.

Playing in such a stage is fruitful not only because of Northwestern’s current dominance, but also because of the encouraging ramifications for the future of NU’s program, Jacobs said.

“I think that the younger girls right now will continue to improve and get better,” she said. “This team is going to be really strong for the years to come.”

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