Women’s Soccer: Big win in tow, Cats prepare for Big Ten slate

Minjae Park

With half the season’s games already played, Northwestern enters Big Ten play next week after an impressive non-conference slate against strong opposition.

After the Wildcats’ second loss of the season to Kansas, coach Stephanie Foster said the team was still “learning how to win.” She said NU (4-3-2) was getting better at that after an accomplished display from her team against Illinois State.

“We play great against teams that are considered better than us, but we have trouble getting the job done when we’re expected to win,” Foster said. “I thought we were perfect in this game. We hung in; we were patient. I thought we did that brilliantly and we finished them, so we’re learning to be composed throughout the game.”

The Cats beat then-No. 3-ranked UCLA 1-0, their biggest win in program history, in their third game. The Cats have never topped an opponent with a higher ranking.

“It was really exciting,” said freshman forward Kate Allen, who scored the game’s only goal. “But the whole team had worked really hard to get that goal, and it was a beautiful ball from (freshman midfielder Julie Sierks) and it was just a tap-in…It was the team completely.”

Allen has made an immediate impact and leads the team in goals this season with four, three of which have been game-winners. Completing the attacking lineup are Caroline Dagley, who led the team with three assists last season, and freshman Bo Podkopacz, who has played in every game for the Cats as well.

Allen scored her fourth goal against Eastern Michigan on Sept. 12 from a cross by senior Sam Greene. That assist tied Greene with Foster, current coach and former NU player, on the all-time list in career assists with 15.

Greene will get fewer chances to add to her tally than in previous seasons. After playing three years as a forward, Greene switched to defense. Junior midfielder Emily Langston has also played multiple positions this season, shifting left and center in the midfield.

“Emily’s our unsung hero of the year,” Foster said. “She’s been all over the place; she’s so fit and prepared for the season; she’s invaluable. Same with Sam (Greene). She’s playing a new position this year. She’s doing so well with so little experience in the backline. She just wants to win games. You can put her anywhere in the field, and she’s going to get after it.”

At the back, sophomore Briana Westlund started every game of her collegiate career until she missed the Illinois State game last week due to injury. Goalkeeper Carolyn Edwards will end her senior year at least third on NU’s record books for career shutouts after surpassing assistant coach Erin Ekeberg, a former NU player, with another clean sheet against Illinois State. The performance put her at 14 career shutouts, one short of second place and 10 short of first.

On the sidelines, assistant coach Katie Shields has replaced assistant coach Danielle Slaton, who left the team at the end of last season.

The UCLA game represents the high-level competition Foster scheduled for the Cats this year. Three of the Cats’ nine opponents – then-No. 13 BYU, UCLA and No. 7 Notre Dame-have been ranked.

“We have these teams in our schedule to play against the Big Ten,” Foster said. “Notre Dame’s a special team; UCLA’s a special team; BYU’s a special team. Just getting those experiences under your belt gets you ready for your conference. You hope you’ve seen everything by the time you start conference play.”

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