Women’s Soccer: Wildcats suffer familiar fate in weekend losses

Alex Lederman, Assistant Sports Editor

Northwestern experienced a sense of deja vu Sunday.

Tied 0-0 with just over five minutes left to play in the second overtime, Indiana senior midfielder Tori Keller beamed a kick from the sideline, just 10 yards off the endline, toward the NU goal, where her fellow senior midfielder Abby Smith headed the ball past NU freshman goalkeeper Lauren Clem.

And just like that the game was over. Because of the golden goal rule in college soccer overtime, the Wildcats walked off the field with another loss in the final minutes.

“We’re always really, really close and then there’s some sort of a breakdown,” coach Michael Moynihan said.

The matchup eerily resembled the one played just two days earlier against Purdue.

Again from just 10 yards out and five minutes to play in overtime, NU gave up the game-winning goal.

The referees’ calls at the ends of both games were controversial; the foul called Sunday on NU that led to Indiana’s free kick was questionable, and the lack of a foul call against Purdue on Friday during the final play was also suspect.

“That’s the second game in a row where a decisive call has gone against us and led to the game winner,” Moynihan said after Sunday’s loss. “I think they felt guilty taking it because everybody here knows how bad it was, but having said that, we’ve got to defend the set piece better.”

“We can’t leave the game in a position to be decided by the official, which we’ve done,” he added. “We’ve come out on the wrong end of several really, really harsh decisions. It’s hard to stomach, but that’s what builds character, I guess.”

This weekend piles on to what has been a frustrating start to conference play for the Cats.

In their conference opener, NU squared off against defending Big Ten champion Nebraska. The Cats jumped out to an early lead off an unassisted goal by senior midfielder Sami Schrakamp, but they gave up a goal in the 87th minute and were forced to settle for a tie.

Then against Iowa, NU lost 1-0.

With this weekend’s two losses, the Cats fall to 0-3-1 in conference play, with all three losses coming by just one goal.

“We have to be better in the final third, and we have to capitalize on opportunities, because we were the better team,” Moynihan said after Sunday’s loss. “This is the third game in a row where we’ve been the better team and have come away on the wrong end of a one-goal loss.”

And that’s where the Cats’ second round of deja vu comes in. Their early 2014 season woes strikingly parallel their 2013 season, a season in which they finished dead last in the Big Ten with only one conference win.

All of the 2013 pitfalls are back: Being unable to finish in the attacking third, losing by a single goal regularly, outplaying opponents only to walk away with a loss, being on the losing end of a number of controversial calls and, of course, bad luck.

NU dominated time of possession Sunday against Indiana, and outplayed the Hoosiers nearly the whole game. But they couldn’t do what mattered most: putting the ball in the back of the net. Although the Cats outshot Indiana 12-5 and 9-3 on goal, they still walked away with a 1-0 loss. They also outshot Purdue 11-10 and tied Iowa with 10 shots apiece.

Still, just like last year’s squad, the bright spots have been there.

Sophomore forward Addie Steiner has filled the scoring void left by graduated forward Kate Allen and midfielder Julie Sierks. Although Steiner was one of the team’s stars last year, it took her until the 14th game to actually score a goal.

But not this year. Steiner already has 6 goals, more than any player on the team last year. Still, all of these goals came from the first four nonconference games of the season, and she has gone six straight contests without a goal.

The Cats are scoring much better overall as a team, too. NU already has 13 goals this season — only 3 less than they had all of last year. Schrakamp and freshman Kim Jerantowski have been key contributors to the scoring uptick, with 2 goals each.

The freshman goalkeeper, Clem, has been strong so far as well, with 32 saves and a .821 save percentage.

The Cats lace up again Friday against Penn State and look to rebound with their first conference win.

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