Win or lose, Northwestern has kept games tight this season. For the first time all year, NU lost a game by more than a one-goal margin with a 3-0 loss to Wisconsin at Madison, Wisc. on Monday night.
“In every game we’ve been in, except for this game, we’ve been in the game until the end,” senior midfielder Sam Greene said. “In this game, we sat back in the beginning and it hurt us.”
The Wildcats (6-9-3, 2-6-1 Big Ten) let in three first-half goals to the Badgers (10-4-4, 7-1-2), who are vying for an NCAA Tournament berth, ending their own hopes of a .500 record.
“You don’t always know how or why you come out like this,” coach Stephanie Foster said. “We just came out really flat tonight, and they punished us for it.”
Wisconsin now leads the Big Ten, while NU is tied with Purdue for eighth place.
The Badgers took the lead in the 20th minute with a goal by defender Kodee Williams, the assist coming from forward Laurie Nosbusch. Nosbusch scored her own goal five minutes later with a header to double the lead. At the half-hour mark, Nosbusch made it three for the home side, capitalizing on a rebound from teammate junior Leigh Williams’ shot.
The goals were Nosbusch’s eighth and ninth goals of the season, tying her for third in the Big Ten.
“It took us a while to figure out the field we were playing on,” Greene said. “It was small and it was wet, kind of bumpy. We just weren’t paying attention to details and that is why they got the goals.”
The Badgers outshot the Cats in the first half 7-0, indicative of a difficult first period for the Cats.
“We were basically letting them do what they wanted to do,” Foster said. “And when we had the ball, we gave it right back to them.”
The Cats improved in the second half, taking six shots compared to the Badgers’ five. Junior forward Caroline Dagley, who had three of those shots, had NU’s best chance of the game in the 72nd minute when she produced a diving save from goalkeeper Michele Dalton.
“(The second half) went a lot better,” senior midfielder Colleen Antas said. “We stepped up and played our game. We weren’t going to give up another goal, absolutely not, so we fought through it and we played our game of soccer.”
NU’s second half efforts couldn’t surmount the Badgers defense, which held on tight to record a conference-high 12th shutout of the season. Wisconsin has also conceded the fewest goals in the Big Ten with eight.
“We didn’t have a hungry go-at-them mentality, it’s all a little bit on our heels,” Foster said. “Our finishing was representative of that too because we had chances, especially in the second half. We tested them and we made them look shaky at times, but we still didn’t finish the chances.”