‘Cats close out Cardinal for second upset win of the week

By Sarah Meadow

After beating No. 19 Xavier on Sunday, Northwestern women’s soccer wasn’t done handing out upsets. A gritty performance from senior captain Rowan Lapi helped the ‘Cats deal No. 6 Stanford its first loss of the year on Thursday.

Lapi converted a first half penalty kick to give Northwestern a 1-0 win over the Cardinal. The ‘Cats 5-1-1 start to the year is their best start since 2018 – the last time they finished with a winning record and earned a berth into the NCAA tournament. Thursday also marks Northwestern’s first top-10 victory since 2014.

“Right from the start, we knew we could beat this team,” Lapi said postgame. “I think everyone else watching, they [might not] have expected much from us, but that was kind of our edge. We knew that if it was a complete team effort, [we could win].” 

Northwestern had four shots on goal compared to just one for Stanford – a team which usually averages three goals a game and upwards of 10 shots on goal. It’s also the ‘Cat’s second straight shutout over a ranked opponent. 

After two disappointing seasons, Michael Moynihan’s squad is gelling at the right time. Despite losing last season’s second-leading scorer in fifth-year Reagan Steigleder, this team returned much of its talent. Younger players have also stepped up, including junior Meg Boade and sophomore Emma Phillips. 

The leadership of Lapi alongside seniors Aurea del Carmen and Danika Austin, as well as junior Josie Aulicino has been a hallmark of this team’s early success. Aulicino led the team in goals last season with six and already has three in seven games in 2022. 

Looking around the Big Ten standings before conference play, Rutgers currently holds the top spot with a 7-0 record, followed by Michigan State at 4-1-2 and then Northwestern at 5-1-1. Aulicino currently leads the Big Ten in shots on goal with 14, and is fifth in points with 11. Northwestern is also third in the conference in goals allowed with only three. 

Speaking of goals allowed, this team has been using an interesting but effective goalkeeping strategy. First-year goalie Riley Fitzpatrick has been starting the first half while Wake Forest graduate transfer Mia Raben comes in for the second half. Seeing as they have only allowed three goals against them and are on a two-game shutout streak, this duo is working well in the net.  

The ‘Cats win over the Cardinal is undoubtedly the biggest win for the program thus far, but this team is hungry for more as it heads into Big Ten play, which opens Sep. 18 against Purdue. First, Northwestern squares off against Butler on Sunday at home. Purdue sits at 3-4 on the season, falling to No. 9 Notre Dame but beating a strong No. 15 University of Southern California squad earlier on. 

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