Women’s Soccer: No. 5 Northwestern falls to second in Big Ten standings after loss to No. 15 Michigan State


Elisa Huang/The Daily Northwestern

Senior midfielder Rowan Lapi fights for the ball. Lapi scored NU’s only goal on Sunday.

Lucas Kim, Reporter

After nearly two months, the Wildcats have snapped their program-record undefeated streak of 13 games with a 2-1 loss to No. 15 Michigan State over the weekend.

No. 5 Northwestern (12-2-2, 6-1-1 Big Ten) entered Sunday’s match tied with the Spartans (12-1-3, 7-0-1 Big Ten) as the top seed in the Big Ten. The Cats now trail Michigan State by three points in the conference standings.

It was a tale of two halves for NU, who fell behind early and failed to get a shot on goal in the first half. After just 20 minutes of play, the Cats found themselves down 2-0, their largest deficit in any game this year.

According to coach Michael Moynihan, the Spartans came out with an unexpected formation that countered NU’s three-person back line.

“We prepared for what we’ve seen from Michigan State pretty much all year, which is a 4-4-2 variation, and they surprised us a little bit,” Moynihan said. “They came out and mirrored our shape in a three-back system where they bottled things up for us.” 

The first goal came off a 12th-minute Michigan State corner kick as the Cats failed to clear the ball out of the box. That’s where graduate defender Samantha White buried the ball just out of the reach of graduate goalkeeper Mia Raben.

Eight minutes later, the Spartans converted on another corner kick, this time from a header that bounced over Raben’s outstretched arm.

In the first half, Michigan State outnumbered NU in shots 6-1 and corner kicks 4-0.

Following several tactical adjustments made by the Cats throughout the first half into halftime, the trajectory of the game altered. 

“We actually shifted a little bit in the first half. I thought once we made the change to a four-back system, it forced them to change again,” Moynihan said. “Being behind, we had to be aggressive in how we pressed, and I thought we pressed a lot more aggressively in the second half.”

This aggressiveness led to an outburst of scoring chances for NU, who outshot the Spartans 7-6 and gained three more corner kicks in the second half.



The Cats’ only goal came in the 54th minute after senior forward Aurea del Carmen made an impressive run into the left side of the box where she was tripped by her defender.

On the resulting penalty kick, senior midfielder Rowan Lapi hit the ball past the keeper to put NU on the board. This was Lapi’s fifth goal of the year.

For the Cats, however, it was a case of too little, too late as they failed to score throughout the rest of the match.

“We know we can play with anybody,” Moynihan said. “Once we found our feet in this game, we felt like we were the better team, so it’s just getting back after it and hopefully next Thursday we get back on the right track.”

Sunday marked NU’s first conference loss and first home loss of the season. With sole possession of first place in the conference standings, the Spartans must lose at least one of their last two regular season games if the Cats hope to catch them.

NU’s next game comes against Iowa at home for Senior Night on Thursday.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @lucaskim_15

Related Stories:

Women’s Soccer: Northwestern tallies seventh shutout this season with win against Michigan

Women’s Soccer: No. 6 Northwestern defeats Wisconsin 2-1, climbs to first in Big Ten standings

Women’s Soccer: Northwestern defeats Illinois, extends undefeated streak to 11 games