The Daily Northwestern

Women’s Soccer: Wildcats look to bounce back in Big Ten

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Kayla Sharples looks upfield. The junior defender and the Wildcats hope to return to their winning ways against Illinois.

Kayla Sharples looks upfield. The junior defender and the Wildcats hope to return to their winning ways against Illinois.

Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Kayla Sharples looks upfield. The junior defender and the Wildcats hope to return to their winning ways against Illinois.

Charlie Goldsmith, Reporter

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Women’s Soccer


Northwestern’s five losses have all frustrated coach Michael Moynihan, who traces each defeat to a miscommunication or a missed opportunity. Last Sunday, though, Moynihan said the Wildcats needed to make intangible improvements after their 2-0 loss to Purdue.

After NU’s (6-5-2, 3-2-1 Big Ten) 2-0 loss to Cincinnati in September, Moynihan said the new formation was taking time to gel. When the Cats conceded two first half goals in their Big Ten opener against Penn State, he acknowledged their struggles keeping possession. And in NU’s scoreless draw against then-No. 12 Rutgers, he stressed its inability to convert scoring opportunities.

Purdue, however, was a different story for the Cats.

“They carried a little extra tension coming in,” he said. “They came in with good intentions, but when we gave in a goal, we let that tension get to us.”

As a result, Moynihan used practice this week to increase NU’s intensity and resilience to improve its execution.

He said the Cats had a “difficult” practice Monday, and worked through unrelenting rain Wednesday to prepare for the rest of the season. Junior defender Hannah Davison saw practice as an opportunity to return to top form.

“Against Purdue, there was a lack of energy early,” she said. “We conceded early goals and didn’t bounce back. And that’s what we’re doing in practice. We’re bouncing back.”

Progress is difficult to measure in soccer, Moynihan said, especially for a team not winning as much as it did last season. After NU’s 2-1 victory against Indiana last Thursday, freshman midfielder Regan Steigleder said the team was hitting its stride and playing its best soccer. But three days later, the Cats were shut out by Purdue and plummeted in the Big Ten standings.

The reigning Big Ten champions might have their backs against the wall in the conference, but Davison sees potential in the team’s long possessions, increased confidence and improved offense in practice.

Moynihan said NU’s Saturday match against Illinois (4-10-0, 1-5-0) is an opportunity to display that improvement against a “stingy” opponent.

“It’s a game that we need to win if we want to do things in this conference,” he said. “Illinois just beat Indiana, who we had to struggle to get a win against.”

While the Fighting Illini are winless in conference play beyond their victory over the Hoosiers, they went to overtime against No. 14 Penn State and Rutgers, opponents the Cats failed to score against.

After a rough stretch, and with more tough opponents on the horizon, junior defender Kayla Sharples expects her team to showcase resilience against its cross-state rival.

“Illinois is a scrappy team,” she said. “We need to put everything on the line and stay composed and win as a unit. We need to come back together.”

Lucia Procopio contributed reporting.

Email: charlesgoldsmith2021@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @2021_charlie

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