Women’s Soccer: Long-range strike, inactive offense doom Cats in second straight defeat

A+Wildcat+lies+on+the+ground+following+a+loss.+NU+dropped+its+second+straight+contest%2C+this+time+at+the+hands+of+Michigan.+

Daily file photo by Nathan Richards

A Wildcat lies on the ground following a loss. NU dropped its second straight contest, this time at the hands of Michigan.

Charlotte Vaziri, Reporter

Northwestern’s first stab at ruining Michigan’s homecoming weekend did not go as planned.

The No. 22 Wildcats (9-3-2, 3-2-1 Big Ten) suffered from a sluggish offensive performance as they lost 1-0 to Michigan (9-4-1, 4-1-1) on a rainy Thursday night in Ann Arbor.

A Wolverine goal in the 34th minute set the tone for the rest of the game.

“We got off to a slow start today and never recovered,” coach Michael Moynihan said.

Michigan forward Reilly Martin streaked down the left wing, drawing two NU defenders. She dished the ball to fellow forward Corinne Harris and the Cats’ defense was slow to close her down, leaving her with enough real estate to rocket a shot from 25 yards out.

Sophomore goalkeeper Lauren Clem watched the shot fly past her reach, settling in the right upper 90 of the net and putting Michigan on the board.

“Credit to them for scoring a fantastic goal,” Moynihan said.

After the goal, Michigan’s attack continued relentlessly. The Big Ten leader in shots per game took 18 shots on the evening, five of them on goal, while NU was held to just seven shots total.

The Cats didn’t have an answer to the Wolverines’ pace and proactive mentality, which kept NU locked in their territory the majority of the half.

Michigan sent many balls down the flanks and into the NU box that the Cats’ defense couldn’t clear. In the midfield, the Wolverines dictated possession, and NU had little opportunity to string together passes and get into a rhythm.

“Michigan was certainly the aggressors and used their size and athleticism to a great advantage,” Moynihan said.

The Cats started the second half on the right foot, adjusting by putting more bodies forward and tailoring their press to suffocate the Wolverines’ backline, but their control of the early minutes of the half didn’t translate into a goal.

Indecisiveness left NU players holding onto the ball too long and losing possession, and when they tried to find their forwards, such as their leading goal scorer, junior Addie Steiner, they were stopped cold by Michigan defenders. The Cats, a team that usually finds success clearing the ball to their forwards in order to stage a counter-attack, failed to connect when they had the chance to break.

“We showed more fight in the second half,” Moynihan said, “but just didn’t do enough to sustain our attacks and threaten consistently.”

The Cats relied on their goalkeeper to keep them in the game all night. In the 64th minute, Clem saved the team from a two-goal deficit when she tipped a shot from Michigan’s Ani Sarkisian wide. Clem closed the night with four saves.

The closest opportunity NU had to score was a long-range free kick by senior midfielder Nandi Mehta in the 53rd minute that sailed right into the goalie’s hands.

The loss knocks the Cats out of a four-way tie for second place in the Big Ten and is their second straight loss to a conference opponent. Now on a losing streak, Moynihan said the team will look to regroup when they take on Michigan State in East Lansing on Sunday.

“We are disappointed in the result and hope to get back on track Sunday,” he said.

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