The Daily Northwestern

Women’s Soccer preview: Northwestern looks for second-straight conference title

Kayla+Sharples+heads+away+a+ball+in+the+box+last+season.+The+junior+defender+is+one+of+the+top+returners+on+this+year%27s+squad.
Kayla Sharples heads away a ball in the box last season. The junior defender is one of the top returners on this year's squad.

Kayla Sharples heads away a ball in the box last season. The junior defender is one of the top returners on this year's squad.

Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Kayla Sharples heads away a ball in the box last season. The junior defender is one of the top returners on this year's squad.

Cole Paxton, Web Editor

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Women’s Soccer


A year after making history by earning a share of the conference title, Northwestern has a prime opportunity to again ascend to the Big Ten mantle.

The Wildcats return many of the standouts that brought them their first conference crown, including senior defender Kassidy Gorman, junior defender Kayla Sharples and All-American senior goalkeeper Lauren Clem. Given NU’s reliance on defensive domination last season, the strong core of defensive-minded returners is a dangerous recipe for the rest of the Big Ten.

The Cats were jaw-droppingly airtight at the back last season, recording seven straight shutouts in September and keeping five consecutive league opponents off the scoreboard later in the season. NU allowed multiple goals just once all season and led the country by a large margin with a .290 goals against average.

And the most influential players from that success return.

Gorman and Sharples are the biggest names on a back four that returns intact, and Clem’s .927 save percentage topped the nation. Senior Nikia Smith and junior Hannah Davison were no slouches either: both played in every game in 2016; Davison started every one.

Though the Cats earned their maiden Big Ten crown, spent much of the season ranked in the top 25 and won a pair of matches in the NCAA Tournament, they nonetheless enter 2017 with concerns.

Scoring was a significant issue for NU, which scored multiple goals just once in its last nine games and tallied four scoreless draws. Co-leading scorers Gorman and junior midfielder Brenna Lovera return, but it remains to be seen if coach Michael Moynihan can improve his team’s finishing ability.

A handful of players have graduated, including do-it-all midfielder Nandi Mehta and full-time starter Kaitlin Moore, and Moynihan brings in only one can’t-miss recruit.

Still, last season’s accomplishments and the returning stars have expectations in Evanston high.

NU will open the new season Friday night at home against DePaul before embarking on a three-game road trip through Illinois State, Long Beach State and Loyola Marymount.

Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled Hannah Davison’s name. The Daily regrets the error.

Email: colepaxton2019@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @ckpaxton

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