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Women’s Soccer: Clem leads Wildcats into NCAA Tournament matchup with Butler

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Marisa Viggiano looks upfield. The junior midfielder and the Wildcats will battle Butler in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday.

Marisa Viggiano looks upfield. The junior midfielder and the Wildcats will battle Butler in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday.

Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Marisa Viggiano looks upfield. The junior midfielder and the Wildcats will battle Butler in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday.

Charlie Goldsmith, Reporter

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Women’s Soccer


After four consecutive positive results at the beginning of Big Ten play, Northwestern was hitting its stride. The Wildcats couldn’t have expected the disappointing stretch that followed: two consecutive losses to Purdue and Illinois, now the No. 221 team in the RPI.

With their backs against the wall, the Cats needed leadership to get out of their rut, coach Michael Moynihan said. Senior goalkeeper Lauren Clem took action right away.

“She made the team come in and do stuff on their own, they were bringing them in to do video and making sure they were doing the scouting reports,” Moynihan said. “They’re doing it without us as coaches. A couple people would groan, and they were like, ‘No we got to do it. This is important and we want to win.’”

After losing 2-1 to Penn State in the Big Ten Tournament championship game, Clem said she wants another winning streak to take the Cats further than they have ever gone in the NCAA Tournament. NU (12-7-2, 7-3-1 Big Ten) plays Butler (13-2-5, 5-0-4 Big East) in the first round Sunday, and, as in October, the Cats have no room for error.

NU fell to the Bulldogs 1-0 in an exhibition match before this season. Though Butler didn’t lose in conference play in the regular season, the Bulldogs, like the Cats, lost in their conference tournament championship match and earned an at-large bid.

Clem said she is excited to play against a physical, highly-regarded opponent. Competing against this quality of competition, she said, leads to her playing her best soccer, even though she won’t take credit for any of NU’s success.

“It doesn’t come down to one person at the end of my day,” she said. “I’ve actually been waiting for more of my teammates to get recognized because this is such a team sport.”

While Clem held five consecutive opponents scoreless late in the regular season, she credited her defensive unit for the Cats’ success. She made two difficult late saves against Michigan State to seal the No. 2 seed in the Big Ten Tournament, but Clem said her favorite moment in the match was a block made by an NU defender that kept the ball away from her.

Though Clem set the school record for minutes played, and she rose to fourth in NCAA history for career shutouts by the season’s end, she said she was satisfied seeing NU — not her own name — in the record books.

“You have to be a selfless individual if you’re part of a team,” Moynihan said. “That’s a hard thing to do. Everybody says they like to do it, everybody says they’re a team player, but it’s hard when it’s 7 a.m. and it’s cold and it’s raining and you don’t really feel like going out to train. The culture is what drives everything.”

Despite the devastation the Cats felt after the Nittany Lions came back in the Big Ten Tournament, junior defender Kayla Sharples said NU is anticipating another run. After shorter and “crisper” practices that prepare the Cats for postseason play, Sharples isn’t setting any limits.

“This season isn’t finished and we have so many things that we can accomplish,” she said. “It’s been really exciting seeing that we can play with any team in the country. We just come out with that confidence because that’s what we do.”

Email: charliegoldsmith2021@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @2021_charlie

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