Women’s Soccer: No. 12 Northwestern upset by No. 21 Penn State in Big Ten Semifinals


Claudia Arriaga/The Daily Northwestern

Senior midfielder Rowan Lapi fights for possession. Lapi was named to the Second Team All-Big Ten.

Lucas Kim, Reporter

Northwestern and Penn State last met in the 2017 postseason, when the Nittany Lions captured the Big Ten Tournament title in a 2-1 comeback victory.

Thursday’s Big Ten Tournament semifinal match between the two teams was a revenge opportunity for the Wildcats, who have not made it past the semifinal since falling to the Nittany Lions.

But two early Nittany Lions goals put a win out of reach for No. 12 NU (14-4-2, 7-2-1 Big Ten), as the Cats were unable to stage a comeback or record a score against No. 21 Penn State (12-4-3, 5-3-2 Big Ten). 

With the Nittany Lions’ lone goals coming prior to the 20-minute mark, Penn State staged quick attacks and took advantage of sudden transition opportunities to counter the Cats’ three-back formation.

The Nittany Lions dominated offensively early on, notching a corner kick 30 seconds into the match and scoring in the second minute at the end of a counter attack.

The second goal resulted from yet another transition opportunity, forcing NU to switch into a four-back formation to strengthen its back line. Though the change proved effective, as the Cats allowed only one more shot on goal for the rest of the game, the offense still could not keep up.

That is not to say the game was a one-sided affair, however. The Cats controlled possession, finishing with 14 shots (nine on goal) compared to Penn State’s five shots (three on goal).

NU also finished with eight corners to Penn State’s two. The second half alone saw the Cats outshoot the Nittany Lions by 10 shots.

One of the game’s most significant moments came late in the first half, when sophomore defender and Second Team All-Big Ten selection Emma Phillips exited the field with a left-leg injury. This forced the Cats to adapt, shifting senior midfielder Rowan Lapi to left center back.

Despite the loss, the Cats’ run is not over yet. Ranked No. 12, NU is essentially guaranteed to make the NCAA Tournament, which features the top 64 teams in the country.

The NCAA Selection Show on Nov. 7 will determine the Cats’ seeding and their next opponent.

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Twitter: @lucaskim_15

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