Women’s Soccer: NU offense goes cold as Wildcats crash out of Big Tens


Leeks Lim/The Daily Northwestern

Suzanne Malherbe pulls away from a defender. The senior forward will have to continue looking ahead with the rest of the team as the Cats will try to bounce back after opening postseason play with a loss to Michigan.

Max Schuman, Assistant Sports Editor

Women’s Soccer

Northwestern simply can’t figure out the Wolverines, and it has cost the team a shot at Big Ten Tournament glory.

A 49th-minute goal from Michigan’s Nicky Waldeck was too much for a sputtering Wildcat offense to overcome, and for the second time this year NU (13-5-2, 7-3-1 Big Ten) fell to the Wolverines (12-6-2, 6-3-2) 1-0, ending its run in the Big Ten Tournament in the quarterfinals.

Though the scoreline was the same as the one-sided affair in Ann Arbor on Oct. 8, the tenor of the game was different in the early going. Through the first half, the Cats dealt with Michigan’s pressure well, while NU’s defensive back three effectively snuffed out fast-paced Wolverine counterattacks.

With their fair share of possession and the support of the home crowd, the Cats appeared to have settled into the game — until disaster struck.

Early in the second half, NU finally succumbed to Michigan’s pressure and made a costly turnover deep in its own half. The ball came to Wolverine midfielder Corinne Harris, who picked out a perfect pass to connect with a well-timed run by Waldeck through the Cats’ back line.

From close range, Waldeck fired a shot that sophomore keeper Lauren Clem deflected but could not stop. The ball agonizingly trickled across the goal line, giving Michigan a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.

Coach Michael Moynihan credited the Wolverines for successful execution of their direct, high-pressing game plan at that moment.

“A player got caught on the ball a little bit, and they stole it and punished us pretty quickly,” he said. “It’s one way of being effective.”

NU saw a good portion of the possession for the remainder of the game, but despite throwing numbers forward in search of an equalizer, the Cats’ offense went cold. As Michigan bunkered down to secure its lead, NU found it difficult to break for quick counters and couldn’t find much space to shoot or room on the flanks to play crosses.

Making matters worse for the Cats was the conspicuously limited playing time of the team’s leading scorer and top option to break down a packed-in defense, Addie Steiner. The junior All-Big Ten Second Team forward tied a season-low in minutes with 48, and despite the need for a goal, she saw her first action of the second half with less than 20 minutes remaining in the game.

While the attack perked up after Steiner returned to the pitch, the Cats simply struggled to find a rhythm with their offensive play, in part because of the feisty, hard-tackling play of the Wolverines, who picked up four yellow cards in the game.

“They’re a physical, aggressive team,” Moynihan said. “It’s the way they choose to do it, and they got the result.”

Ultimately, the golden opportunity to equalize never came for NU, a common refrain for a team that scored only a little more than a goal per game this season. Now the Cats must hope for an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament. Moynihan said he felt his team’s spot was secure despite its early exit from the Big Ten Tournament, but nothing is certain until the 64-team field is revealed on Nov. 9.

If NU’s postseason run does continue, the Cats will have to forget the sour taste of this match quickly, said senior midfielder and team captain Nandi Mehta.

“We’re going to put it behind us and look forward to the next game,” she said. “It’s all you can do.”

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