The Wildcats are moving on. In a physical, defensive battle at Martin Stadium in Evanston, Northwestern (12-7-2, 7-3-1 B1G) squeezed by Butler (13-2-5) on penalty kicks, 3-2. They move on the Round of 32 in Los Angeles, where they will play No. 2-seeded UCLA on Friday at 10 p.m. Central Time.
In the first half, Northwestern won the possession battle but couldn’t capitalize, resulting in a scoreless tie at the half. The Wildcats had plenty of chances on offense, spending a lot of time near the top of the box. Their best chance was a Kayla Sharples shot, which the Northwestern bench prematurely cheered for before realizing it went just wide.
In the cold, wet conditions and sloppy offensive play led to three corner kicks per team. On Butler’s side, 2017 Big East Offensive Player of the Year Paige Monaghan and star freshman Caitlyn DiSarcina attracted much of the Northwestern defense’s attention, but they struggled to create chances. Overall, NU had four shots to the Bulldogs’ two, although there was just one total shot on goal in the entire half.
The story was the same in the second half. Both teams had stretches where they appeared in control, but the defense always prevailed. For the Wildcats, Regan Steigleder missed two long shots early in the half, and Madi Kennel had an excellent chance at the 64’ mark, but the shot bounced off the crossbar. For most of the half, scrappy play benefited Northwestern, though in Butler moved the ball aggressively within striking distance of the goal in the final minutes. Fortunately for the ‘Cats, it was never enough. In the half, Butler had six shots to Northwestern’s three, but Wildcat goalkeeper Lauren Clem never looked in danger of letting a ball go by her.
Much like regulation, both overtimes were largely uneventful. Shortly after Butler defender Shannon McDevitt received a yellow card at 94’, Northwestern wasted a set piece and Butler counterattacked, getting a shot on goal – and Clem easily scooped it up. The second overtime featured even more scrappy, defensive play, as there were more total fouls (three) than shots (two). Clem recorded her fourth save, and she headed into penalties having just secured her 48th career shutout, third most in NCAA history.
Northwestern excels in penalty kicks, and they showed that again on Sunday. In the shootout, junior forward Brenna Lovera and freshman midfielder Kylie Fisher matched goals from Butler to even it at 2-2. From there, Clem was lights out, saving shots from Elena Gutlove, Monaghan and DiSarcina. A Hannah Davison goal was all that was needed for Northwestern to finally edge the Bulldogs. Northwestern has (amazingly) never lost a shootout in program history, and improved to 5-0 all-time against Butler.
Butler hits the crossbar and the #B1GCats win!— Northwestern Soccer (@NUWSoccer) November 12, 2017
The Bruins will pose a daunting challenge, but the ‘Cats won the only meeting between the schools in 2010. It is the third year in a row Northwestern has advanced to the Round of 32.