Thanks to the quarter system, the fall sports season is well underway at Northwestern, even though most students arrived just a week ago. You've probably heard about football's rough start to the year, but have you kept up with the other fall sports? Max Goodman and Tim Hackett are here to fill you in on what you've missed from four major fall sports: women's and men's soccer, field hockey and volleyball.
By Max Goodman
Women’s Soccer: 9-0
Head coach Michael Moynihan and the Wildcats have roared out of the gates this year, rattling off nine straight victories to start the season undefeated in both Big Ten and non-conference play. The Wildcat offense has been phenomenal, scoring 16 goals in nine contests, anchored by sophomore Brenna Lovera who leads the team with six.
Their defense? Nearly impenetrable. Junior goalkeeper Lauren Clem has allowed only one goal so far. Yep you read that right – ONE. Clem boasts a .958 save percentage, has made 23 saves and has tallied eight shutouts.
NU has a tough conference schedule looming but is already bounds ahead of its pace from last year – a season in which it finished with 14 victories, the Wildcats' best record since their 10-win campaign in 2008. It’ll be exciting to see how far Moynihan and the ‘Cats can go this season and if their stellar start is any indication, an NCAA Championship appearance this season is a goal well within reach.
Men’s Soccer: 1-6-1
After a 2015 season in which the NU men’s soccer team recorded its worst winning percentage since the 2002 season (.444) and lowest end of season win total since 2003 (7), head coach Tim Lenahan and the Wildcats looked to have a bounceback campaign and return to Big Ten prestige in 2016.
However, after a home victory against Florida Gulf Coast to open up their season schedule, the Wildcats have seen their record drop to 1-6-1 with an 0-2-1 tally in Big Ten play. The ‘Cats have struggled on both sides of the ball, only managing to find the back of the net five times so far this season, while surrendering 13 goals to eight opponents.
Further, all but one of NU’s matches have been decided by one goal or less, proving that an inexperienced, youthful core has yet to find a way to score and come up big defensively when the clock is winding down. It seems as though filling the boots of eight key seniors from a season ago – headlined by now Chicago Fire forward Joey Calistri who led the Wildcats in points in 2015 with 12 – has proven to be too much for the Wildcats. Whether or not they can right the ship and turn this season around remains to be seen.
By Tim Hackett
Field Hockey: 6-2
NU field hockey has been about as good as advertised this season, posting a record of 6-2 and standing as the No. 11 team in the country. Three of the six wins have been shutouts, including an 8-0 thrashing of Colgate, in which the Wildcats amassed a whopping 46 shots, 30 of which were on target. The two losses were both by one-goal margins and were both to ranked opponents, including a 3-2 overtime loss to then No. 4 Duke.
NU ranks second in the Big Ten in shots and goals and first in assists, but it’s really been a team effort on offense: Isabel Flens and Dominque Masters share the team lead with six goals, but neither of them rank in the top ten in the conference in goals. Flens, however, is tied for fifth in the conference with 17 points, and Masters is tied for seventh with 16. The ‘Cats also feature five other players that have recorded at least two goals or five points.
Meanwhile, goaltender Lindsay von der Luft ranks third in the conference in saves, save percentage and goals against average. The ‘Cats have shown they can dispose of inferior opponents, but can they tangle with the top teams? We’ll soon find out, as Northwestern hosts both No. 4 Penn State and No. 6 Maryland at Lakeside Field this weekend.
It’s been an up-and-down debut season for Shane Davis’ volleyball team, as its record stands at 7-6 following its four-set loss at Indiana to open conference play. The team started off strong, winning its first four matches by sporting some of the most clinical offense in the country, highlighted by an astronomical team hitting percentage of .494 in its opening match - a sweep of George Washington.
It’s been less impressive from there, however, as far too many errors, both in hitting and especially in service, have caused the ‘Cats to stumble to a 3-6 record after sweeping Chattanooga on Sept. 2. The offense has, unsurprisingly, largely gone through Symone Abbott, who led the conference in both kills and kills per set going into Wednesday night’s match. Setter Taylor Tashima is sixth in the conference in assists, and Katie Kniep has proven to be a capable replacement for the graduated Carks Niedospial at the libero position.
Coach Davis has not been afraid to experiment with lineups and formations, as every player, including the four new freshmen, has played in at least one set so far. It will be interesting to see what lineup Davis decides on once competition in the toughest volleyball conference in the country really kicks off on Sunday when NU hosts No. 17 Penn State.