Women’s Soccer: Wildcats look to put recent losses behind them against Nittany Lions

Huzaifa Patel, Reporter

Northwestern isn’t playing poorly, but the team is still searching for its first win in conference play, following two heartbreaking double-overtime losses against Indiana and Purdue.

The Wildcats have a chance to turn it around Friday when they travel to University Park, Pennsylvania to battle No. 8 Penn State.

Although some part of the recent losses can be attributed to simple bad luck, coach Michael Moynihan is looking for improvements from his team.

“We only have two goals in Big Ten play,” he said. “We scored a lot more prior, but we’re going against tougher defenses, more physical teams, so it’s a harder thing to do in the Big Ten.”

Following Thursday’s early morning practice, Moynihan went into schematic depth on areas the Cats’ offense and defense needed to improve. He said NU needs to finish games better and has also spent a significant amount of time working on different set pieces in practice. This was not a coincidence.

“We have to defend our set pieces better,” Moynihan said. “We’ve only given up eight goals all season but five have come either directly off the set piece or related to it. And that’s something that we’re well aware of.”

He said the team’s struggles against set pieces can be attributed to a combination of factors, including tough officiating, poor defense and, quite simply, stellar execution from the opposing team.

Despite the disappointment, Moynihan said there are a lot of positives to take from the recent losses. One was the play of freshman goalie Lauren Clem. He gave credit to NU’s defense, which has limited the opportunities of opposing offenses, but also pointed out some specific plays Clem has made.

“She’s made a great impact dealing with crosses and higher balls into the box,” Moynihan said. “She uses her height well. In the Nebraska game (T, 1-1) we saw her natural instincts were fantastic. She made some great saves in that game.”

Moynihan also mentioned an impressive save against St. Louis in which Clem covered the length of the crossbar, saying that there were few keepers that could make such a save.

Moynihan didn’t shy away from saying the close losses had an effect on his team’s psyche entering the next match

“It’s three losses in a row where we’re coming away feeling like we were the better team,” Moynihan said. “We generated more opportunities and we were in a position to win. Three in a row starts to wear on you.”

How is the team addressing this?

“We have to stay together and we can’t point fingers,” Moynihan said. “Those were all things we talked about, and it’s a resilient group. We didn’t start the season the way we wanted against Fairleigh Dickinson, but we turned around two weeks later and beat nationally ranked Marquette. So I know they have it in them.”

And the Wildcats will have their opportunity to show it Friday night.

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