After more than 260 minutes of scoreless soccer, Northwestern finally caught an offensive break versus Michigan State, when sophomore forward Emily Langston was fouled in the penalty box.
“She just got shoved from behind,” coach Stephanie Erickson said. “Those are total judgment calls, but when you have players and numbers in the box, you’re asking a team to defend in their box, and that’s what happens. You’re putting them under pressure, and they tackle too hard or they push.”
Alicia Herczeg took the penalty kick for the Wildcats (5-8-2, 2-3-1 Big Ten), and with the goalie going left, kicked the ball toward the right side for the goal.
“We practice (penalty kicks) all the time; it’s just a pattern of habit,” Herczeg said. “I like going to the right, and just placed it.”
The penalty kick was NU’s second of the season. The first came in a scoreless tie versus Wisconsin-Milwaukee, when junior forward Sam Greene’s shot was saved by the Panthers’ goalkeeper.
“Alicia’s been ready to take a PK since we missed one against Milwaukee,” Erickson said. “She’s been first on the board every pregame, and she’s prepared and she’s confident. When she was stepping out, I would’ve been shocked if she didn’t convert it.”
The penalty kick goal was the highlight of NU’s strong offensive performance. The Cats registered 13 shots, marking their fourth straight game with 10 or more shots.
“We’re starting to click,” Herczeg said. “We’re getting really good offensive movement. We’re getting our (defensive) backs into the attack. Our midfield is going for it. We feel really good about our offense right now.”
NU’s offense was especially strong in the second half, when it put up 10 of its 13 shots. Herczeg and Greene, who combined for seven shots, including four on goal, led the charge.
“They both had a great day, ” Erickson said. “They showed a lot of courage. They showed a varied attack. They didn’t do the same thing all day long. They were pretty hard to defend.”
On the other side of the ball, junior goalkeeper Carolyn Edwards made three saves to earn her fifth shutout of the season, which ties her total from last year.
“We were really solid today, ” Edwards said. “It was a team effort. I have to give it to the defense.”
NU benefited from two Michigan State shots off the crossbar. The first shot came on a breakaway, when Edwards came out of the net and Spartan forward Olivia Stander looped a shot over Edwards that hit the bar. The second came on a long-range shot by Spartan midfielder Megan Pines to the upper-left corner of the goal.
“You know when you make a mistake, Michigan State makes you pay,” Erickson said. “They’re efficient and they’re good goal-scorers, so clearly they got unlucky.”
Sunday’s game against Michigan State (8-2-4, 1-2-2) marked NU’s only home game in October. The team now heads back on the road, facing Iowa and Minnesota in its next two games. The Cats said they hope they can bring some of Sunday’s momentum with them.
“We have four games left,” Herczeg said. “(We have) two on the road, two at home, so getting a big win against one of the top teams in the Big Ten definitely is going to push us forward.”