Women’s Soccer: Wildcats go west to open NCAA Tournament


Leeks Lim/The Daily Northwestern

Junior forward Addie Steiner jumps for a header. Steiner will lead the Wildcats into their first NCAA Tournament game since 1998 as Northwestern battles Washington State.

Charlotte Vaziri , Reporter

Women’s Soccer

Northwestern will open up its run in the NCAA Tournament on Saturday with a first round game on the road against Washington State.

“Everyone starts with a clean slate in the tournament. I feel good mentally and physically. They’re hungry and are very strong in their belief,” coach Michael Moynihan said. “We just have to focus getting the job done in Washington. I look forward to it, we will do well.”

The game marks the first time these teams have ever competed against each other. Although the teams are not familiar with each other, Washington State (14-5-0, 7-4-0 Pac-12) is very familiar with the tournament.

This is the Cougars’ seventh NCAA Championship in the last eight years, and their fifth consecutive bid. Meanwhile, the Wildcats (13-5-2, 7-3-1 Big Ten) will try to take advantage of beginner’s luck — they haven’t been in the tournament since 1998.

Even though NU has only had three NCAA appearances, it should not be taken lightly. This season has been historic. This year’s team earned the program’s most Big Ten wins since 1998 (7), and cracked the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) poll after a 17-year drought.

“I have the ’98 team always in the back of my mind,” senior midfielder Niki Sebo said. “That team inspires us and what we believe we can do. We all have a belief we can take it further than the first round.”

Heading the defensive corps that is responsible for a program record of 11 shutouts is sophomore goalkeeper Lauren Clem, who ranks 10th in the nation in goals-against average.

Pacing the offense is the dynamic duo of Sebo and junior forward Addie Steiner. In four of the last six games, either Steiner or Sebo tallied points. Steiner is sixth in points in the conference, leading her team in goals and assists, and was named All-Big Ten Second Team. Alongside the potent threat of Steiner, the Cougars will have to shut down Sebo who is right on Steiner’s heels with five goals and two assists.

But Washington State has been having a historic season as well. It finished third in the Pac-12 in a season where it tied the program record of 14 wins. It also has a 34-game winning streak when leading at halftime, which is also a program record.

Looking to derail Clem will be forward Kaitlyn Johnson whose seven goals lead her team and are the second most in the Pac-12. NU’s defense that was plagued by injury will be challenged by a Washington State team that has found success in focusing on a gritty and physical style. When the Cougars out-foul opponents, they are 8-0.

However, out of the 64 teams that qualified for the tournament, the Cougars have a losing record against the six they’ve played during the regular season, going 2-4-0.

This season, when the Cats go head-to-head against better ranked teams, their outcomes varied. They beat No. 4 Rutgers, but lost to No. 24 Santa Clara and No. 2 Penn State. The only common opponent NU and the Cougars share is Colorado. Washington beat Colorado 3-0, and the Cats won 1-0.

The furthest NU has reached in NCAAs is the third round in 1998. Maybe the Cats will continue to perpetuate their theme of history-making into the tournament.  

“I couldn’t be more roud of our team,” Steiner said. “We are just really excited to go to Washington, and show them what we got.”

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