Women’s Soccer: Northwestern beats Nebraska, moves to third in Big Ten


Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Kayla Sharples kicks the ball. The junior defender assisted on Northwestern’s only goal in its 1-0 win over Nebraska on Saturday.

Charlie Goldsmith, Reporter

Women’s Soccer

Northwestern entered its home finale against Nebraska with a guaranteed spot in the conference tournament. Even without a bid on the line, the Wildcats showcased the tenacity and chemistry that set them apart from Big Ten competition.

Again, these factors played a pivotal role for NU (9-6-2, 6-3-1 Big Ten) in its 1-0 win against Nebraska (9-4-5, 3-2-5) on Saturday.

“A lot of teams may lose that throughout,” senior goalkeeper Lauren Clem said. “But it doesn’t matter if we’re up or down or it’s the 80th minute and we need to figure out how to score. Every single one of us knows what job needs to happen.”

The Cats’ game-winning goal, scored by freshman forward Kayleigh Stahlschmidt, was emblematic of their team identity. In the 65th minute, junior defender Kayla Sharples crashed into Nebraska goalkeeper Aubrei Corder fighting for a ball that was sent into the box. They met in mid-air and collided at full speed, but Sharples won possession, forced the ball loose and guided it to Stahlschmidt, who struck it in the back of the net.

Sharples said the team’s heart was the primary influence behind its victory.

“I really do think we have an aggressive mentality,” she said. “We always want to be first to the ball, we always want to win it … We’ll do anything to get the ball. We’ll honestly just throw our bodies in front of any shot.”

Since NU hadn’t beaten Nebraska in the regular season since 2008 and because four of the Cats’ Big Ten games have been decided by just one goal, NU expected to scrap for a victory Saturday. Clem said she was impressed by her teammates’ resilience against a physical opponent.

“In the first half of the game, we couldn’t finish our chances while the ball was on their half,” she said. “We were saying that the expectation needs to be better … And during the second half we weren’t looking back at all, we were looking forward and were able to find the net.”

With the victory, the Cats moved into a tie for third place in the conference standings with one game left in the regular season. A win Wednesday at Michigan State guarantees home advantage in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament. NU has three consecutive wins — the longest active streak in the conference — against three of the Big Ten’s top seven teams.

Even though 43 teams are ranked ahead of NU in the Women’s Soccer RPI and the Cats have scored the fifth-fewest goals in the Big Ten, coach Michael Moynihan said momentum is building. He said NU’s unchanging self-confidence is its ticket to a successful postseason.

“They’re tighter than any group I’ve coached and they’re starting to do those things at a level I haven’t seen,” Moynihan said. “That’s the best part of coaching. These guys are training hard and then coming out and are walking the walk. The wins will follow, but it’s the culture that really matters.”

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Twitter: @2021_Charlie