Northwestern football gets hyped after their win over No. 10 Wisconsin. The team's stellar season is a shoo-in on our list of top moments, but does it claim the top spot? Photo by Brandi Simpson / North by Northwestern

It’s been one of the most exciting and interesting years in Northwestern sports history. With several teams making postseason play and players achieving extraordinary highs, Wildcat fans have had plenty to cheer about, despite being out of the stands for most of the year. With almost all sports concluding their seasons this past weekend, we thought it appropriate to look at the top moments from this year, and rank them accordingly.

Prepare the Twitter arguments.

Honorable Mention: Northwestern Fencing

Northwestern fencing did not get much attention from us in our media coverage, but to be honest, we may have been a bit biased if we did report on it. The team finished third in the country at the NCAA Championships, a program-best and one of our former editors, Justine Banbury, was named an All-American.

While it may not make too many headlines, we’re very proud to have one of our staff finish high on our list, and get the recognition she deserves.

No. 5: Danielle Williams pitches a perfect game

Junior pitcher Danielle Williams prepares to throw during a 2021 matchup. In a game against Iowa, Williams threw the first seven-inning perfect game for Northwestern since 1989. Photo by Brandi Simpson / North by Northwestern

The only moment of this list to occur within the sport’s regular season, junior right-hander Danielle Williams makes our list for absolute perfection. The ace pitcher for Northwestern softball, Williams took the circle in Iowa City on April 16, taking on the Hawkeyes and trying to stifle their offense.

Williams did more than just stifle, as she did not allow a single batter to reach base, commonly referred to in the sport as a “perfect game.” In the win, Williams faced 21 batters, and retired all 21 of them, striking out eight in the process. It was the first “complete” perfect game in the Big Ten conference since 2009, and the first for Northwestern since 1984.

While Williams had plenty of other highlights this season (she was named First Team All-Big Ten at the end of the season), it simply cannot get any better than perfection, and as a result, her individual effort makes our list.

No. 4: Men’s basketball beats No. 4 Michigan State, makes AP Top 25

Northwestern's Boo Buie drives to the hoop against Michigan State. In a game that saw the unranked Wildcats demolish the No. 4 Spartans, Buie scored a career-high 30 points. Photo courtesy of Northwestern Athletics

Yes, we know how their season ended. Yes, we know they lost 13 straight games after that week. But let’s forget about that for a hot second as we reminisce on Christmas Week 2020: the week the ’Cats were on top of the basketball world.

Just 11 days after the team had choked away a game to Pittsburgh in the final seconds, Northwestern pulled off their first AP Top 5 win since 1979, beating the No. 4 ranked Michigan State Spartans in a stunning 79-65 victory at home. Sophomore guard Boo Buie scored 30 points, and the ’Cats clicked all game to pull off one of their biggest wins in team history.

A week later, following wins against Indiana and No. 23 Ohio State, the ’Cats were added to the AP Top 25 for the first time since 2017, ranked No. 19 in the nation. It was an important day for Northwestern, as the men’s team being ranked gave the school a top-ranked football, men’s and women’s basketball teams, giving the aura of a true “sports school.”

Yes we know how it ends, but wow, what a rush that week was.

No. 3: Izzy Scane breaks Northwestern Lacrosse scoring record

Northwestern attacker Izzy Scane goes for the loose ball against Denver. Scane, who played in a shortened season due to COVID-19 concerns, came just four goals short of the all-time NCAA record. Photo by Joanne Haner / North by Northwestern

Absolute dominance, and in only 16 games.

Northwestern junior attacker Izzy Scane received national attention this past year for her unbelievable scoring ability, as she notched an astounding 98 goals. In doing so, Scane shattered the previous single-season program record for goals of 86, set by Shannon Smith in 2011… in 23 games.

Scane’s unbelievable season marked a return to dominance for Northwestern lacrosse, as the team posted a 15-1 record this season, coming just short of the national championship after falling in the semifinal. While her story has a bittersweet ending, there’s no denying the skill Scane showed this season, and ’Cats fans are already hyped for her return the following year.

No. 2: Football wins West, Citrus Bowl

Northwestern lifts the Citrus Bowl trophy after winning the game 35-19 over Auburn. With a fantastic senior core and several storylines in play, the team had plenty to prove during their shortened season. Photo courtesy of Northwestern Athletics

Despite the football season being originally canceled in August 2020, and Northwestern receiving almost no media attention prior to the season, the ’Cats put together one of their most historic seasons in program history, coming just short of a playoff appearance and Big Ten dominance.

Opening the season with almost no attention from college football outlets across the country, the ’Cats rattled off five straight wins – including wins over undefeated Purdue and No. 10 Wisconsin – to skyrocket all the way up to eighth in the AP Top 25 poll. Despite a tough loss to unranked Michigan State, the team was still able to wrap up the Big Ten West Division, and roll into a championship bout against Ohio State, losing  22-10.

Northwestern celebrates after a key sack against Wisconsin, a win that propelled the team to No. 11 in the AP Poll. The 'Cats would finish in the top 10 at the end of the season. Photo by Brandi Simpson / North by Northwestern

Undeterred, the ’Cats were selected for the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida, where they notched a victory over Auburn and gave storied defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz – who announced he would retire following the season – his 400th win, as well as several storied seniors the sendoff they deserved.

Northwestern defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz celebrates with his players following his final game with the team. Photo courtesy of Northwestern Athletics

Not perfect, of course, but what in Northwestern ever is?

No. 1: Women’s basketball gets revenge, postseason run:

Lindsey Pulliam celebrates after a shot over Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament. With the win over the Wolverines, the 'Cats were able to avenge their final loss in 2020, and earn an NCAA Tournament berth they had been craving for over a year. Photo courtesy of Northwestern Athletics

When we first entered the pandemic, the biggest sports story at Northwestern was that the 2020 Big Ten Champion Women’s Basketball team had lost their postseason, and what may have been the closest they would have gotten to a national championship. With a loss to Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament, all eyes were on the NCAA Tournament… that would never arrive.

Nearly a year later, the ’Cats were able to turn their season around and give their fans the postseason run they deserved. Despite a less than stellar 16-9 record, and losing to Michigan twice in the regular season, Northwestern beat the Wolverines 65-49 in the Big Ten Tournament to avenge their loss from last year, and were able to notch a victory in the NCAA Tournament as well, giving seniors like Lindsey Pulliam one last shot at glory.

Maybe it’s not the greatest achievement, but after being cheated out of their championship run, there’s no way Northwestern fans can disagree with this choice.

Gonna miss seeing these two play together. Photo courtesy of Northwestern Athletics