Women’s Soccer: Wildcats still searching for first Big Ten win

The last time Bri Westlund and the Wildcats won a Big Ten game, it came against Michigan. The Wolverines pose a much stiffer challenge this season, having gone undefeated in their first five Big Ten contests.

Daily file photo by Mackenzie McCluer

The last time Bri Westlund and the Wildcats won a Big Ten game, it came against Michigan. The Wolverines pose a much stiffer challenge this season, having gone undefeated in their first five Big Ten contests.

Ariel Yong, Reporter

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Northwestern has not won a conference game since last season when they shut out Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich.  Almost a year later to date, the Wildcats look for a repeat victory over the Wolverines, which would mark their first conference win this season.

After dropping conference games to Purdue and Indiana last weekend, the Cats (4-7-2, 0-5 Big Ten) face No. 23 Michigan (10-2-1, 4-0-1) at Lakeside Field on Saturday. The Wolverines are second in the Big Ten, two points back of conference-leading Penn State.

“We’re excited to play Michigan because we beat them last year,” sophomore forward Sami Schrakamp said. “They are very physical and a very good team. They’re doing well in the Big Ten and I think this is a game that we need to prove ourselves.”

In the last five games, the Cats averaged more than 11 shots and three saves per game. What the statistics don’t show are the team’s increasing number of breakaways, one-on-one opportunities, and close range shots – the aggressive offensive plays that have yet to result in an NU goal.

“We have to finish our chances and we’re starting to get more chances in games,” sophomore midfielder Niki Sebo said. “We’re working the ball passing wise a lot better.”

Sebo said the team was going to work on moving the ball in the midfield, an area where the team has struggled in the past. Junior forward Kate Allen attributed last Friday’s loss to getting beat by the Purdue offense in the midfield.

Despite a few defensive struggles, the Cats have, on average, only given up one goal in the last five games. However, it’s on the offensive side that NU falls short, recording only two goals in five contests.

After last weekend’s game against Indiana, coach Michael Moynihan pointed out numerous scoring opportunities by Schrakamp, Allen, and sophomore forward KK Barr. However, he said that the team will have to find a way to turn these chances into results.

“Indiana did not have a legitimate chance to score but we had five or six,” Moynihan said. “It could have easily been a lopsided game in our favor. To have it not come out in our favor, it’s hard to swallow.”

Although Michigan leads the series 10-5-5, the last six contests between the two teams have ended in four ties and two Cats victories. With only one game this weekend to be played in front of the home crowd, NU remains optimistic that those offensive chances can be converted into goals.

“We have to keep believing in ourselves,” Allen said. “(We) know we can win some games here and keep pulling ourselves out of this (four game skid) a little bit.”

What the Cats lack in the win column is made up for in their determination and high morale and this contributes to their underdog status, which may take future teams by surprise.

“Our record does not show who we are as a team,” Barr said. “To get those (close shooting) opportunities shows something. We are a team that people need to watch out for. (To) go in (against Michigan) knowing that, we can do well against them.”

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