Women’s Soccer: Wildcats down Purdue, notch 6th straight shutout as defense shines


Daily file photo by Leeks Lim

Nandi Mehta fights for possession. The fifth-year senior midfielder notched Northwestern’s second goal in the win over Purdue.

Garrett Jochnau, Sports Web Producer

Women’s Soccer

It took just one goal for Northwestern to seize control of Sunday’s Big Ten showdown with Purdue. And when the Wildcats scored their second, the match was virtually over.

Entering the contest on the heels of eight straight wins and five consecutive shutouts, the Cats (9-0-0, 2-0-0 Big Ten) simply needed a few flashes of offensive brilliance to pull out on top. The rest, they left to the defense.

“If the other team isn’t scoring, then we’re always in it and we always have a chance,” coach Michael Moynihan said. “We have a real resilience and tough-mindedness that I really appreciate.”

NU’s 2-0 victory over the visiting Boilermakers was significantly more pronounced than the final score suggests. The Cats’ defense, which now boasts a program-best 626 straight shutout minutes, once again executed in full force. Keeping Purdue from ever catching stride, the defense submitted another near-perfect effort from start to finish.

Once sophomore forward Brenna Lovera got the Cats on the board in the 13th minute, NU never looked back.

“It feels really good to get us going and started off,” Lovera said. “We have started to create a nice culture where it’s keep going, keep going, keep going — gas pedal to the floor.”

The score came off a lofted transition pass from fifth-year senior midfielder Nandi Mehta. Lovera beat the defender and drilled it through the goalkeeper’s outstretched arms to notch her sixth goal of the season. It was the second straight game in which the sophomore scored her team’s opening goal.

Mehta then added a goal of her own in the 49th minute to extend NU’s lead, driving in a penalty kick following a Purdue handball.

Though none of the team’s other 17 shots found their way into the net, it never mattered. Junior goalie Lauren Clem saved all three shots that came her way, with the Cats’ back four ensuring that most Purdue attempts never reached Clem in the first place.

“That zero on the scoreboard is something we take pride in,” sophomore defender Hannah Davison, who was recently named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week, said. “We know that we don’t necessarily need to win by keeping that shutout, but it’s something that the four of us and whole team take great pride in, and something I hope continues throughout the Big Ten.”

Only in the final few minutes did the Boilermakers come close to making a surge after the Cats took their collective foot off the pedal. Still, Purdue never managed to break the seal and joined NU’s prior eight opponents in defeat.

NU’s next Big Ten test will come on Friday, when it visits No. 22 Rutgers and looks to extend its streak to 10. Though the Cats beat the Scarlet Knights last year and enter the contest with plenty of momentum, Moynihan said the team can’t relax.

“We’ve just got to keep it rolling,” he said. “We’ve had some pauses in games like today, where we’re rolling along pretty comfortably — it was 1-0 but it felt like 3-0 or 4-0 — and we took our foot off the gas a little bit. We’re not going to be able to do that against Rutgers.”

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