Women’s Soccer: Cats look to continue success as historic regular season comes to close


Leeks Lim/The Daily Northwestern

Michelle Manning sprints up the pitch with the ball. The sophomore forward will need to help the Cats produce some goals if they want to knock off Big Ten front-runner Wisconsin.

Charlotte Vaziri, Reporter

Women’s Soccer

The Wildcats need to keep their eyes on the ball.

Northwestern’s (12-4-2, 6-3-1 Big Ten) 2-0 victory against Illinois (9-5-3, 3-4-3) on Saturday in Champaign punched them a ticket for the Big Ten Tournament. However, as every NU student-athlete knows from the relentless quarter system, the work is never done.

“We qualified for the Big Ten Tournament,” coach Michael Moynihan said. “But there’s still a lot on the line.”

The outcome against Wisconsin (11-4-3, 8-1-1) on Wednesday will be the largest variable in whether NU will edge into the top four of the conference. Being among the top four would set the Cats up for success in the tournament as they would be a host site and have an easier draw in the early rounds.

“We want to use this game against Wisconsin to finish as high as we can in the Big Ten, even though our seeding is somewhat contingent on other results,” Moynihan said. “We could finish as high as third and as low as sixth. The higher seed we can achieve, the better.”

The ideal hypothetical would be if NU (19 points in Big Ten standings) wins against Wisconsin (25 points) and both Rutgers (20 points) and Michigan (20 points) lose.  

This would catapult the Cats to third. If that scenario doesn’t play out, the team could secure fourth place if they win and either Rutgers or Michigan loses.

With so much in the air, senior midfielder Niki Sebo is choosing to just focus on her team’s success.

“We can focus on ourselves and be successful just by playing the way our coaches have been teaching us these last few years,” Sebo said.

Cracking into the top four will not be an easy feat for the Cats, especially when lining up against Wisconsin, who hasn’t lost since Sept. 17 and clinched a share of the Big Ten regular season title this past weekend.

The Badgers’ eight-game winning streak is one of the longest winning streaks in school history. This is a testament to their steel defense that is spearheaded by goalkeeper, Caitlyn Clem. Clem has had eight shutouts in the past nine games and has a 0.779 save percentage.

“It’s going to be tough,” Moynihan said. “However, in the last two games, our scoring has been potent (6 goals). We have enough dangerous players, and when the moment comes, we will execute.”

NU’s most dangerous scoring threats include Sebo and junior forward Addie Steiner who have netted 11 of the team’s 23 goals.  

On defense, the Cats will need to shut down midfielders Rose Lavelle and McKenna Meuer, who lead the Badgers with six goals apiece and account for 12 out of the 25 goals Wisconsin scored this season.

The Badgers’ offense will be tested against NU’s sophomore goalkeeper Lauren Clem. On Tuesday, Clem was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week, which comes as no surprise after helping the team achieve the most shutouts in a season in school history (11), and her being four shutouts shy of tying NU’s all-time record.

This game should be an indicator of how the Cats will fare in the Big Ten Tournament, Steiner said.

“Coming into Wednesday’s game, if we win, we have a big chance of reaching our teams season goals: being the top four in the Big Ten and making the NCAA tournament,” she said. “This season I believe has been a season that has shown how hard we’ve worked the past couple years by finally getting the results and success we deserve.”

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