Women’s Soccer: Wildcats prepare for ‘must-win’ match against Nebraska


Daily file photo by Oreste Visentini

Kayla Sharples fights for the ball. The junior defender and the Wildcats will put their two-game win streak on the line against Nebraska on Saturday.

Alison Albelda, Reporter

Women’s Soccer

Despite a rough start to the season, Northwestern is finally hitting its stride.

The Wildcats (8-6-2, 5-3-1 Big Ten) sit at fourth in the Big Ten, and head into their final regular season home match against Nebraska (9-3-5, 3-1-5) on Saturday. The Cornhuskers are currently sixth in the Big Ten, and both teams enter the weekend in need of a win.

After a pair of clean sheets against Minnesota and Wisconsin, senior goalkeeper Lauren Clem was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week on Tuesday. Clem said the Cornhuskers are a tough team and will be difficult to score on.

“Their attack is very direct,” Clem said. “They start wide and cross balls in, but we have a good back line with Hannah (Davison) and Kayla (Sharples) in the center to clear it out.”

NU’s staunch defense will be put to the test against Nebraska’s formidable offense, as the Cornhuskers sit at third in the Big Ten with 1.7 goals per game. Nebraska also averages 16.7 shots per game, while the Cats average just 11.4.

Last season, NU and the Cornhuskers met twice, with both matches ending in a draw. Junior defender Kayla Sharples stressed the importance of communication between the defenders and midfielders to fend off the Cornhuskers’ attack.

“(Last year) they gave us a hard battle,” Sharples said. “We need to come out strong with heart … and just get the goals on the board right away.”

After winning a share of the Big Ten Championship last season, the Cats struggled to open the 2017 campaign. But after a tough loss at Illinois, NU is riding a two-game win streak heading into Saturday’s match.

Coach Michael Moynihan said he’s pleased with how the team has worked itself back into fourth place in Big Ten standings.

“We want to get a top-four finish in the conference so we can host for the Big Ten Tournament,” he said. “We want to put ourselves into a position to get in the NCAA Tournament, and we are right on the cusp of that again so we’re still in a pretty good place. We just need to finish strong.”

With just two regular season games left, Moynihan said the team is focused on the postseason. He added that the matchup with Nebraska could be critical for NU’s NCAA Tournament hopes.

“This will be the third must win in a row,” he said. “We have to win this game if we want to be in contention for an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament.”

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the number of games left in Northwestern’s regular season. There are two. The Daily regrets the error.

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