The results of Northwestern’s weekend matchups didn’t do the program any favors for their hopes of making the Big Ten Tournament.
Coming into Northwestern’s (5-8-3, 3-4-2 B1G) weekend duels at Ohio State (4-8-4, 2-4-3 B1G) Thursday and Penn State (11-6-1, 7-3-0 B1G) Sunday, the Wildcats were in line for the seventh seed in the tournament. A draw with the Buckeyes and a loss to the Nittany Lions were barely enough to keep the Wildcats’ playoff spot secure. With two games remaining, they currently sit in a three-way tie for seventh with Ohio State only two points behind.
The first half of Thursday’s game was all Buckeyes. Ohio State kept the pressure on the Wildcat defense, earning five corner kicks with 10 shots in the first 45 minutes. It was no surprise, then, when the Buckeyes struck first.
In the 31st minute, Ohio State junior midfielder Olivia Petit crossed the ball on the ground from the left side of the box, where it skidded past Northwestern goalkeeper Mackenzie Wood. Maddy Lowe put on the finishing touch, nailing the first goal of her collegiate career into the back of the net.
The Buckeyes continued to dominate possession for the rest of the half, but it was the ‘Cats who emerged stronger in the second.
Northwestern seemed to find opportunity after opportunity, having four corner kicks in the first ten minutes of the second half. Between those chances and other opportunities in the box, it was clear the tide of momentum had shifted toward the Wildcats.
With just over 17 minutes left in regulation, first-year defender Marianna Annest smoked a left-footer from about ten yards outside of the penalty box into the top left corner of the net. It was her first goal of the season, making her Northwestern’s 12th individual goal scorer this season.
The momentum backed the ‘Cats for the remainder of regulation, but they never managed to net another goal.
In overtime, Northwestern continued to pressure Buckeye defenders and tested goaltender Jordan Silkowitz’s abilities.
With 30 seconds remaining in the second overtime period, Aurea Martin took a shot on goal from the center of the box, but Silkowitz dove to make the save with her right leg and preserve the tie. It was Silkowitz’s fifth overtime save, and Northwestern left Columbus settling for one point.
Unfortunately for the ‘Cats, Sunday’s matchup at Penn State did not see the same momentum swing in their direction.
Penn State’s offense struck early and often. The Nittany Lions scored their first goal in the fifth minute on a chip shot from freshman forward Payton Linnehan at the top of the penalty box, and in the remaining 40 minutes of the half tacked 9 more shots as Linnehan scored another goal off of a corner kick.
On the Northwestern side of the ball, Wood pulled in six saves, but the Wildcats only finished with one shot in the game, twenty seconds into the second half. Fortunately for them, that lone shot—a header from junior midfielder Regan Steigleder off of a long cross from grad student Olivia Korhonen—curved out of the reach of Nittany Lion goalkeeper Amanda Dennis and ended up in the back of the net.
Kylie Fisher almost saved a goal with her leg on a volley from Nittany Lion midfielder Ally Schlegel flew towards the net in the 62nd minute. A video review showed that Fisher’s leg was behind the goal line, so Penn State was awarded their third goal.
The ‘Cats couldn’t succeed in penetrating the Nittany Lion defense for the rest of the game, and the loss dropped them back under .500 in conference play.
Northwestern finishes the season with two more games at home against Minnesota (2-11-4, 1-6-2 B1G) and Wisconsin (11-2-2, 7-0-1 B1G), hoping to secure their spot in the Big Ten Tournament after a one-year hiatus.