Women’s Soccer: Northwestern set to enter a defensive battle with Nebraska


Daily file photo by Sean Su

Junior Addie Steiner chases down the ball. Steiner is leading the Cats in both goals and assists so far this year and will be needed to produce against a stout Nebraska defense.

Charlotte Vaziri, Reporter

No. 24 Northwestern (10-3-2, 4-2-1 Big Ten) is looking for a victory to kickstart a winning streak as it faces against conference foe Nebraska (5-6-2, 1-4-2 Big Ten) at Toyota Park on Thursday at 7 p.m.

The Cats snapped their two-game losing streak after defeating Michigan State 1-0 last Sunday in East Lansing.

“It was difficult for us after losing two games. It put a dent in our confidence,” coach Michael Moynihan said. “But to come back and get a result on the road against Michigan State… even without key starters, brings the confidence levels up. Now we want to reassert ourselves.”

Based on the Big Ten rankings, NU should be able to “reassert” itself. The Cats check in at at No. 5, while the Cornhuskers are No. 11. The NSCAA Coaches Poll further punctuates the disparity between these teams as it slates NU at No. 24, while leaving Nebraska unranked.

However, the water becomes murky when the formula-based poll, RPI, is checked. RPI is a calculated ranking system that takes into account factors such as strength of schedule, opponents’ strength of schedule and winning percentage.

A loss to Penn State and a tie against Missouri, teams the Cornhuskers tied and beat respectively, have the Cats looking like equals to Nebraska in RPI. NU sits at 34 and the Cornhuskers are currently 35.

“It’s going to be a tough one for us,” Moynihan said. “Over the last couple of years it has always been interesting. One year, we outshout them by a huge margin, yet, they ended up winning the game. They play a very different system, which causes a lot of teams problems. They are hardworking and definitely not a team to take lightly.”

Statistically however, it is hard to take Nebraska too seriously. Although the Cornhuskers’ goalkeeper, Erika Johnson, is fifth in the Big Ten in saves, Nebraska’s offense is far from formidable.

The team’s top scorer and assister is defender Jaylyn Odermann, who ranks 11th in the conference in goals scored. With NU’s sophomore goalkeeper Lauren Clem ranking second in the conference in shutouts with nine, and third in save percentage, it is hard to imagine Nebraska putting on a scoring clinic.

But injuries have the Cats ready to treat the Cornhuskers like an offensive juggernaut.

“Our defense will have to be packed in tight, communicate, and due to all the injuries in the back line, the new girls need to be versed on the game plan,” Clem said. “That is what worked against Michigan State, so we hope to carry that over to this game.”

With the defense playing back, NU will rely heavily on junior forward Addie Steiner and senior midfielders Nandi Mehta and Niki Sebo to produce on offense.

The three have been sparks for the Cats’ attack this season and understand that when the chances present themselves, they need to make Nebraska pay.

“We need to capitalize on opportunities,” Steiner said. “ If we only have a few shots, we need to finish, or at least get them on frame.”

Mehta, Sebo and Steiner are all capable of creating chances for themselves, and that trifecta may be the only thing that separates NU’s attack from the Cornhuskers’.

With both teams scoring at almost an identical pace so far this season, the slightest advantage in the opposing third could mean victory.

“Whoever gets on their front foot first will take ownership of the game.” Moynihan said.

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