Women’s Soccer: Wildcats look to beat Minnesota, get one step closer to Big Ten Tournament


Daily file photo by Noah Frick-Alofs

Regan Steigleder hits the ball. The junior midfielder scored the Cats’ lone goal in the team’s last contest.

Sophia Scanlan, Assistant Sports Editor

Women’s Soccer

If the season were to end today, Northwestern would have earned its ticket to the Big Ten Tournament after missing it last year. However, with two games left against Minnesota and Wisconsin, the Wildcats — currently holding onto eighth place in the conference standings — still have to seal the deal.

Coming off two losses and a tie in its past three games, NU (5-8-3, 3-4-2 Big Ten) will welcome the Golden Gophers (2-11-4, 1-6-2) to Martin Stadium on Thursday for its penultimate matchup of the regular season.

Minnesota, who’s in 13th in the standings, must beat both the Cats and Illinois on Sunday to sneak into the postseason. Conversely, NU could head to the postseason following several different results this weekend, but a win Thursday would bolster its odds to secure its spot.

At a glance, the Golden Gophers don’t seem threatening, with just nine goals off 198 shots this season, a .235 overall win percentage and no victories since Sept. 29.

However, coach Michael Moynihan said the Cats shouldn’t take Minnesota lightly.

“They’re a team some people on the outside might underestimate, but we’re not going to,” Moynihan said. “Minnesota’s on their last life coming into this game… so we know we’re going to be facing an energized team that’s willing to do whatever they need to to win these last few games.”

The Golden Gophers beat NU 2-0 last year in what Moynihan called “a really weird day” for the Cats. It was the first loss NU had after being unbeaten in eight straight games, and midfielder T.J. McKendrick — who netted one of the goals — is still on the roster but has played only one game.

Moynihan said Minnesota showed up with more energy than NU, and the squad left disappointed with the result.

“They’ve been a difficult opponent for us the past couple years,” Moynihan said. “We want to have a better showing where we match their energy.”

Junior midfielder Regan Steigleder agreed, saying the game could go either way no matter the talent of either team.

The Iowa native added the Cats have to play the way they did against Michigan on Oct. 13 and Ohio State on Oct. 17, which she called some of the “best soccer” the team has played this season.

“We’re getting a lot of corners, a lot of crosses, a lot of shots,” Steigleder said. “We just need to get them in the back of the net.”

Sophomore goalkeeper Mackenzie Wood said forgetting about their opponent’s strategy and focusing on their own would also help.

If NU keeps that focus for the “full 90 minutes” — and doesn’t just save it for the end — they’ll also come out on top, Wood said.

“Sometimes we’ve had rough starts, and we just can’t have that for these next two games,” Wood said. “We need to combine well and just play how we know how to play.”

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