The 1960 presidential race between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon is one of the most famous in United States history. The two candidates battled it out in the first-ever televised presidential debates and canvassing on the campaign trail. Kennedy narrowly defeated Nixon by a popular vote margin of just under 117,000 people in one of the closest races the country had ever seen.
Like President Kennedy, Northwestern knows what it’s like to win close. They’ve played in five overtime games this season, including back-to-back wins over #21 Ohio State (11-7, 3-5 B1G) and #6 Michigan (11-5, 5-3 B1G), and have won four of those games. The Wildcats have beaten three of the seven B1G teams ranked in the top 25, but its three losses come against the other three. The #4 Northwestern Wildcats (15-3, 5-3 B1G) look to enter the Big Ten Tournament on a hot streak with two games left in the regular season. The B1G is a tough division to play in, but the Wildcats are clearly resilient enough to handle it.
Players to Watch
If they are going to handle business in tournament play, they’ll have to rely on the nation’s third-leading scorer, fifth-year forward Bente Baekers. Baekers already has a conference-leading 22 goals and three game-winners this season. Fellow fifth-year defensive backer/midfielder Kayla Blas is 11th in the country in assists per game and leads the Wildcats in assists, making her an excellent partner in crime. Both will be sorely missed when they graduate, but until then, they’re giving their opponents hell.
Junior midfielder Lauren Wadas will rob you blind and then juke your ankles off on the way to score. Her two defensive saves are good for seventh in the conference, and she had the clutch game-winner in double overtime against Michigan on October 21.
Rounding out the scoring threats is senior midfielder Peyton Halsey. She is the team’s second-leading scorer thanks to her late-game heroics against #6 Penn State (15-2, 7-1 B1G) on September 30. Halsey scored both the game-tying and game-winning overtime goal while also having a hat trick.
On the defensive side, senior goalkeeper Annabel Skubisz is 18th in the nation in save percentage, stopping nearly everything that comes her way. Her peak performance came when she had five saves in less than a minute against Ohio State on October 16.
The Wildcats started the season off very strong, winning their first eight games before losing to #5 Iowa (11-6, 4-4 B1G). In between an overtime win versus Penn State and a three-game win streak including the aforementioned consecutive overtime wins, Northwestern also dropped close games to #4 Maryland (16-2, 7-1 B1G) and #23 Rutgers (8-9, 3-5 B1G).
Despite a few stumbling blocks, the ’Cats have shown that losses can’t slow them down. With the third-best conference record, the Wildcats are staring down a three seed in the tournament despite a few stumbles. Their huge wins overshadow those three tough losses.
Northwestern has the tools to go far in the Big Ten Tournament and avenge some losses along the way if they play Iowa or Maryland after a rematch with sixth-seeded Rutgers. They play ferocious defense, have the best player on the planet on offense, and are stout in the goal. The Wildcats outscore their opponents by nearly three goals to one. Any team that faces the ’Cats had better watch out. After all, Northwestern has already beaten 10, count ’em, 10 ranked opponents. What’s a few more?