Women’s Soccer: Northwestern falls to No. 23 Michigan

Rebecca Friedman, Reporter

The Wildcats have not scored since junior forward Kate Allen’s tally against Penn State. That was 17 days, four games and 391 minutes ago.

Allen, ninth in Northwestern history in career goals, cannot figure out why her team is creating good scoring opportunities but still having such difficulty finishing.

“We’re just missing that final piece of putting the ball in the back of the net,” she said.

Coach Michael Moynihan, equally befuddled by the Cats’ inability to convert, joked that the reason for the lack of goals was a force field around the net.

Northwestern (4-8-2, 0-6-0 Big Ten) had several quality chances against No. 23 Michigan (11-2-1, 5-0-1) on Saturday night, but the Wolverines’ strong defense and dynamic offense proved too much for the Cats. The 2-0 loss is NU’s sixth conference defeat of the year. 

NU and Michigan traded chances in the first half, the only goal coming in the 27th minute for Michigan. Junior forward Nkem Ezurike tallied her seventh and eighth goals of the year for the Wolverines and was a dynamic force for the maize and blue up front all game.

“She’s something special,” Moynihan said of Ezurike. “She has a real strong presence, holds the ball well and the quality of her goals. You don’t see that often. She made it look easy. Those types of players can be the difference in a game.”

Early in the second half, Ezurike found the back of the net again for the Wolverines, giving them a 2-0 lead they did not relinquish.

In terms of defending against Ezurike and other talented Big Ten players, Moynihan believes that the Cats need to stay more organized. In addition, NU needs to work on getting the ball in specific situations that allow aggressive forwards to get in positions in which they can create chances.

“As good as she was, we shut her down basically through the run of play,” Moynihan said. “It was in broken plays where she found gaps and killed us.”

Sophomore defender Jackie Alyinovich explained that the Cats’ game plan against the Wolverines’ impressive offense was more communication.

“We just tried getting every line, the defense, mids and forwards working together and have better communication throughout the whole team,” she said.

Michigan came out in a different formation than NU had anticipated at the start of the game. Moynihan was impressed by the Cats’ ability to adjust and make changes, but the Wolverines responded and made formation changes of their own.

“It was a little bit of a chess match,” Moynihan said.

NU had a great scoring opportunity in the middle of the first half on a ball centered by sophomore forward Sami Schrakamp, but the Michigan goalie made an impressive save to keep the ball from finding the back of the net.

In the second half, the odds were in the Cats’ favor. Allen had a foul kick outside the box, but the ball sailed high and wide. Freshman Natalie Cikos almost scored right at the end of the game, but the ball skimmed the outside of the post.

“We aren’t good enough in the attack against teams of this (caliber),” Moynihan said. “We don’t have enough players who have the composure for the final piece.”

NU still has six conference games left and heads to Madison on Friday to face off against Wisconsin.