Women’s Soccer: No. 17 Wildcats face tough rematch in Big Ten semifinals
November 4, 2016
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This Northwestern team has allowed five goals all season, and it will have to face the only team that scored two goals against it during the regular season.
The No. 17 Wildcats (14-1-4, 7-1-3 Big Ten) will take on No. 25 Rutgers in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament on Friday. The game will be played at Minnesota, the top-seeded team in the tournament.
NU has not lost since it played Rutgers on Sept. 23 in its only defeat of the season. The stakes of this semifinal match could not be higher for a Cats team that has already claimed its first Big Ten title in the program’s history.
In NU’s first matchup against the Scarlet Knights, Rutgers controlled every aspect of the game. The Scarlet Knights ripped 20 shots to the Cats’ three, becoming the only team to put up more than one goal against NU all season.
Although the Cats again proved their ability to grind out a win in the quarterfinals of the tournament, topping Nebraska in a penalty kick shootout, they’ll need to come out strong against the Scarlet Knights. Rutgers rocked co-Big Ten champion Penn State 2-0 in the quarterfinals of the tournament, and it’s proven its ability to defeat top teams, taking out both NU and No. 16 Connecticut by a score of 2-0 this season.
In addition, the Scarlet Knights’ dominant defense may be a problem for the Cats. This year, Rutgers is third in the Big Ten in goals allowed, with 15. For a NU team that has scored two goals in its last five games, offensive chances may be difficult to create. However, sophomore midfielder Marisa Viggiano remained confident that the offense will find its way.
“We’ve been creating chances,” Viggiano said. “Now we just have to focus on getting the ball into the back of the net.”
Against a Cats defense that leads the nation in goals allowed, the Scarlet Knights should also have significant troubles on offense. NU’s defense has been absolutely stifling as of late; they have not allowed a goal in 580 minutes, or more than five games.
Even if it creates chances, Rutgers should have trouble getting by Cats’ junior goalkeeper Lauren Clem. Clem became the first player in program history to be named Big Ten Goalkeeper of the Year, leading NU to 15 clean sheets this season.
Coach Michael Moynihan said because of the Cats’ incredible defense, just one NU goal could have great implications.
“Any team’s going to be a little bit scared if they give up a goal to us at any point in this stage,” Moynihan said. “It would give us a huge psychological boost.”
For the Cats, the key to victory could be early offense. In games where NU has scored a goal in the first half this season, it’s 7-0-0. Moreover, when teams have scored against Rutgers in the first half this year, the Scarlet Knights have gone 1-2-2.
The Scarlet Knights also found a way to win against NU by scoring in the 31st minute this season. But junior defender Nikia Smith was certain that this wouldn’t happen again.
“We need to come out really strong this game,” Smith said. “They are not putting another ball into the back of the net.”
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