Northwestern’s season may have reached its end when the Wildcats lost to Duke 1-0 on Sunday, but this season’s team had one of the most successful runs NU has ever seen. The ‘Cats finished the season 16-3-4, forced a record 17 shutouts and tied the 1998 team’s single-season win record. After a 1-0 win against SIU Edwardsville and a 3-0 win against Kent State, the ‘Cats made their way to the NCAA Sweet 16 against Duke, tying the 1998 team for NU’s longest postseason run.
In the match against Edwardsville, junior Kassidy Gorman scored in the 9th minute, giving the Wildcats an early lead. For the 81 minutes that followed, the defense played up to its regular level of dominance, and prevented the Cougars from getting on the scoreboard.
Throughout the season, junior goalkeeper Lauren Clem anchored the defense that prevented almost all of NU’s opponents from scoring and recorded a .271 goals-against-average, the best in the country. Clem also led the Big Ten in keeping, with a save percentage of .933 and six more shutouts than Aubrei Corder, the No. 2 goalie in the conference.
Sunday’s match against the Blue Devils started off differently. There were no scores in the beginning of the first half, but in the 33rd minute Duke forward/midfielder Imani Dorsey went one-on-one with Clem. Clem was able to make the save, but Duke’s Ella Stevens got the rebound and scored seconds later, putting the Blue Devils up 1-0.
The ‘Cats had trouble maintaining offensive possession for the rest of the first half, and didn’t find any shooting opportunities until the 73rd minute in the second half. A shot by senior Mary Erickson hit the post and resulted in a Wildcat corner kick, but NU wasn’t able to capitalize off the set piece and find the net.
Head coach Michael Moynihan said that Duke was “very technical all over the field," which made the Blue Devils a tough competitor.
“Every one of their players is comfortable on the ball and they have good athleticism up front that can really hurt you,” Moynihan said. “They’ve just got a very balanced team … It makes it difficult because they make the field big and it suits them to have space and isolated matches.”
In the last 20 minutes of play, NU’s defense stepped up and prevented the Blue Devils from any further shot attempts, but the offense was unable to find the back of the net both times it got close to the goal, and Duke held on to advance.
Despite the unfavorable outcome of the game for the ‘Cats, Moynihan was positive about the season at large and views the team’s postseason appearances as successful. He is especially proud of how the program has developed over the past four years and gives credit for this year’s run to the team’s returning upperclassmen.
"This game was about our seniors and the chemistry that this group has," Moynihan said. "When these seniors started their careers, they were last in the Big Ten. To end their careers as Big Ten Champions and Sweet 16 participants is really something special. We are extremely grateful to that group who stuck through some really tough times and battled through a lot to raise the program to be able to be here today."