Women’s Soccer: Northwestern earns retribution against Illinois and secure home win over Nebraska


Daily file photo by Kelsey Carroll

The Wildcats celebrate after Regan Steigleder headed in the game winning goal on in-state rival Illinois. Steigleder scored a goal in the team’s win over Nebraska Sunday.

Skye Swann, Assistant Sports Editor

When the game clock hit the one minute remaining mark, sophomore midfielder Josie Aulicino knew she needed to make a play to prevent the game from going into overtime. 

Running down the field, Aulicino saw graduate midfielder Regan Steigleder beating her defender and passed the ball. Steigleder headed the lone goal in the 90th minute, crowning Northwestern victorious. 

“I needed to hit a perfect ball and find my teammate,” Aulicino said. “Regan was up for the challenge to beat her defender and head it into the net.”

The Wildcats (7-4-1, 3-1-1 Big Ten) defeated in-state rival Illinois (5-7, 1-4) Thursday at Lanny and Sharon Martin Stadium, getting revenge for a senior game loss last spring. NU’s last-minute goal secured the victory, bringing with it an overwhelming feeling of excitement.

Aulicino said NU felt the win was well deserved, as the team has improved tremendously since its first conference game.

Following the tie against Maryland, the sophomore said the Cats were hesitant, forcing the team to reevaluate its play thus far. Aulicino said the team lacked communication, resulting in more individual balls versus a team effort. With significant rest prior to Illinois, NU spent time on bonding and ball movement.

“In the beginning of the season it was confusing,” Aulicino said. “Our communication was lacking, but as time went on we came together and focused on playing as a team.”

NU’s offensive and defensive ends worked in unison, outshooting Illinois 11-8 and denying shots in the second quarter. Getting the win over the Fighting Illini boosted the Cats’ confidence, as the squad had to face a competitive Nebraska team later in the weekend. 

Aulicino and Steigleder were unstoppable against the Cornhuskers (4-7-2, 0-3-2), both scoring goals in the game. When Nebraska scored in the 85th minute, the Cats needed to hold the ball to avoid a potential overtime situation.

Steigleder controlled possession, securing a 2-1 victory over the Cornhuskers for the Cats’ second win in a four-day span. Aulicino said Sunday’s triumph showcased the Cats’ game, highlighting the squad’s ball movement, speed and agility on the field.

On Tuesday, Steigleder was crowned Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week following her goals in the respective games, an award Aulicino said was well deserved.

“She’s been putting in a lot of hard work,” Aulicino said. “(Regan) is someone you can count on to lead the team on and off the field, always bringing good competitive energy.”

With another competitive road battle against Indiana this Friday, Aulicino said Steigleder’s ability to get on the scoreboard is a tremendous advantage. Aside from offense, her defensive pressure is a weapon that helps the Cats keep possession during games.

Even though NU defeated the Hoosiers last season, Aulicino said this matchup will be a tough battle. The main focus will revolve around recovery, shooting and forcing turnovers in the midfield. 

“It’s a big game,” Aulicino said. “We want to win and that’s what we’re going to train to do. We have to keep our bodies healthy within the next couple days, rest up and train hard in order to win.”

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