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

The Daily Northwestern

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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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NU Treks to Hoosier State for Big Ten openers

Northwestern looks to continue its impressive start as it kicks off its Big Ten campaign at Indiana on Friday and at Purdue on Sunday.

With the Boilermakers coming into the game with four losses in their last five games, the Wildcats (4-3-2) have as good a chance of winning as they have had since their last victory against Purdue in 2004.

“We prepared with a tough schedule and I want to finish higher (in the Big Ten) than we’ve ever finished before,” sophomore defender Briana Westlund said.

Purdue has traditionally been the tougher of the weekend’s two opponents. Last season, the Boilermakers finished 12-6-3 and advanced to their sixth NCAA Tournament. They graduated their winningest class in school history, who won a Big Ten title in 2007. They hold a 10-2 series advantage over the Wildcats, including a 2-0 win at Evanston last year.

However, the Boilermakers have been less than stellar this season, entering Sunday’s matchup with a 4-5-1 record.

“We need to get prepared this week, just get refocused,” coach Stephanie Foster said. “We haven’t been on the field since Sunday (against Notre Dame). But those are always teams that we match up well, those are really competitive games. The one advantage they’ll both have is that they’re playing at home. But we have to learn how to win on the road.”

The Cats beat Indiana (4-4-1) in their last two meetings, both with one-goal margins in Evanston. The Cats hold a slender 9-7-2 series lead against the Hoosiers.

With the Big Ten Tournament scrapped in 2008, the league table will be all that counts for final standings.

“We want to finish as high as we can in the Big Ten,” Foster said. “We’re in every game and I think that there’s a lot of parity in the Big Ten. I just think it’s going to be an exciting year. You gotta get after every single game because they’re all going to be battles.”

NU’s attack has improved since last season. The Cats enter this week’s games with 12 goals scored in nine games. Three more goals would match last season’s total number of goals (15) in 18 games.

“I’m still trying to improve. I want to score more but I’m happier with our offense,” junior forward Caroline Dagley said. “We’re generating a lot more chances.”

With half the season played, NU enters its ten-game conference slate with a winning record despite having faced such ranked teams as UCLA, Notre Dame and BYU. An exceptionally strong conference showing could hand NU its first NCAA Tournament ticket since 1998.

“We’ve done really well with a really difficult schedule,” Foster said. “It’s great that we have a winning record. But I think we want two games back-those would be Kansas and Cincinnati. So I can’t say ‘great’ or ‘good’ unless we felt like we had done what we needed to do in every game.”

The Cats enter this week’s games with a convincing win against Illinois State and a loss, despite a strong showing, against No. 7 Notre Dame last week. After the Illinois State game, Foster said it was the most complete performance from her team this season.

“We’ve certainly learned a lot, seen a lot and gotten better every game,” Foster said. “So I think we’re in a good place. It’s not anything spectacular. We’ve got our work cut out for us in the Big Ten season, but we’re well prepared, we’re well equipped to handle it.”

The Purdue match will be televised live on the Big Ten Network at 2 p.m. Sunday.

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881
NU Treks to Hoosier State for Big Ten openers