Women’s Soccer: Northwestern draws Rutgers in program’s first top ten matchup


Seeger Gray/Daily Senior Staffer

Senior defender Danika Austin kicks the ball. Austin had a strong game leading the back line on Thursday.

Charlotte Varnes, Sports Editor

Knotted up at 1-1 in the second half against Rutgers, Northwestern started playing like a team renewed.

Junior forward Ella Hase weaved around defenders, while senior forward Aurea del Carmen played the perfect target. The back line stood strong, led by senior defender Danika Austin, who seemed ready to handle any challenge.

But it wasn’t enough to stymie the No. 10 Scarlet Knights (10-1-1, 2-1-1 Big Ten). A dominant first half gave way to a back and forth second, as the No. 8 Wildcats (9-1-2, 3-0-1) drew Rutgers 1-1.

“It’s a tie that feels a little bit like a loss,” coach Michael Moynihan said. “We had the lead, and we had so many good chances to score and just couldn’t quite get it over the line.”

NU’s first top-ten matchup in program history featured shared points, back and forth possession and top-notch college soccer.

The Cats and Scarlet Knights traded possession throughout the first half. But soon NU started clicking. Less than nine minutes in, Hase found del Carmen right in front of the goal to put the Cats up 1-0. 

From there, NU controlled the first half. A mix of offensive dominance, defensive power and a calm, patient playing style kept Rutgers in check. The Scarlet Knights were frazzled, missing the goal several times. Whenever they neared the goal, the Cats’ back line was right there to challenge them. 

Moynihan said Rutgers didn’t generate “particularly threatening” shots in the first half. He credited NU’s defense for its role not just in the first half but throughout the entire matchup. The Cats’ three defenders — Austin, sophomore Emma Phillips and junior defender Nicole Doucette — played all 90 minutes.

But one defensive miscue changed the course of the game. Rutgers’ Allison Lowrey streaked through the middle of the field, perfectly positioned to deliver a powerful shot and even the score at 1-1. Moynihan said he encouraged the team to be more aware of forward passing lanes, which was how Lowrey snuck through. It went favorably for the Cats once they limited lanes, he said. 

Moynihan said the Scarlet Knights’ goal was like “poking the bear.” Ready to fight back, NU meshed in the second half. 

“We just come roaring back,” Moynihan said. “We’ve done it all season, where, if we give up a goal, we’ve had games where, bang, we score three (straight)… I kid them about it. They’re hungry, they want to make things happen, and they want to win.”

It was a mirror image of the Cats’ dominant first half, as the back line stood strong and the offense hummed. NU seemed to inch closer to the goal with every possession.

But unlike the first half, the Cats just couldn’t make it happen. The Scarlet Knights’ goalkeeper Meagan McClelland was unstoppable, notching four saves in the second half. Shots missed the goal or went straight to McClleland’s hands. 

Even with a solid second half under its belt, NU remained tied with Rutgers at the end of regulation. Moynihan said he was proud of the team despite the outcome, citing strategic changes in the final 45 minutes.

“We lost a little bit of momentum,” Moynihan said. “Once we gave (the defense) a little bit of a tweak, I thought the second half was phenomenal.”

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Twitter: @charvarnes11

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