With less than a minute to go in a tie ballgame, Northwestern had the opportunity to find some space, set up a quality chance, and score a game-winning goal.
Instead, one turnover, one foul, one yellow card, one hit post, and just under one minute of overtime later, Northwestern left The Centennial State with its first loss of the year. Katie Macleay’s game-winning goal 55 seconds into overtime lifted the Colorado Buffaloes (1-0) to a season-opening 11-10 win, at the expense of the No. 9 Northwestern Wildcats (2-1). It was a scrappy, entertaining contest between two teams that seemed somewhat evenly matched with an end result to prove it.
But Colorado wouldn’t have even been close in this contest had it not been for the efforts of keeper Paige Soenksen. The senior recorded 19 saves, tying a career-high mark, to backstop the Buffs’ win. Nine of those saves came in the first 20 minutes with Northwestern pressuring mightily. There were times when Soenksen looked like she wouldn’t be beaten at all. In the end, it took some strong individual efforts to beat the goalie.
Esposito got things going with a goal just over four minutes in. But the Buffaloes responded with a three-goal run, anchored by a goal and an assist from Miranda Stinson, to grab the lead. The ‘Cats clawed right back with three of their own before Colorado struck twice more to regain the advantage. Mounting pressure in the closing minutes, the Wildcats finally beat Soenksen through Ingrilli and Danita Stroup, and Northwestern headed into halftime with a 6-5 edge.
The teams traded pairs of goals to open the second half, with Esposito capping her hat trick with under 13 minutes to go to give Northwestern an 8-7 lead. But Colorado responded with two goals in 20 seconds, including Stinson’s third goal of the game, to reestablish a 9-8 advantage. She had yet to find the cage, but Selena Lasota was clearly gunning for a goal, and she finally got it with 10:18 to go to knot things up at nine. But equilibrium didn’t last long, because the Buffs’ Sarah Brown picked up the ball on the ensuing draw control and marched down the field virtually unimpeded, beating Weisse for her first goal of the game.
Colorado led 10-9 for nearly nine minutes. Weisse made two saves and Soenksen three as both teams searched for a game-changing goal. Finally, it arrived. With 1:10 on the clock, Esposito came around from behind the net, enticed her solo defender to follow her, and somehow placed the ball over the stick of Soenksen and into the back of the net. The game was tied.
Northwestern won the ensuing draw control and immediately called a timeout to set up the potential game-winning play. The Wildcats took their time getting into position, looking for the best possible final shot. But in the process of handing off the ball, Kinna turned it over, and Colorado’s Marie Moore gobbled it up. As Moore hustled the other way, Quinn stood up and knocked her to the ground, stifling her progress but warranting a yellow card. One of the Wildcats’ top defenders would be off the field for the foreseeable future. Colorado nearly got a shot off, but a Northwestern foul negated the chance, but provided a free-position shot for Miranda Stinson with less than five seconds remaining. Sensing a golden chance, Stinson shot low, and the ball caught a little of Weisse and a lot of the ground before it sprung up and caught all of the post. The clock ran out. Northwestern had survived.
Colorado won the draw control to begin overtime and soon found themselves with another free-position chance after a Northwestern foul. The Buffs passed around until Johnna Fusco found Macleay streaking across the face of goal, and the senior buried it into the top shelf, sealing the epic upset win over the ninth-ranked team in the country.
Northwestern will have some time to reflect on this performance as it has a few days off before trekking back out west for a date with former Northwestern standout Lindsey Munday’s USC Trojans, the No. 4 team in the nation, next Saturday.