Northwestern Knocks Off Rutgers On Path To Semifinals

By Adam Bakr

The Northwestern women’s soccer team will head to Columbus after beating Rutgers 2-1 in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament.

“We were in a little bit of a drought and now we’re getting our momentum back,” junior Josie Aulicino said after the game. “We just have to focus on the next one. Obviously this was a great [win], and it’s going to help us with our confidence.” 

It was the second time these two teams have met this season, with both being top-20 matchups. The previous matchup was a 1-1 draw, with the ‘Cats failing to capitalize on several second half chances to pull out the win.  

“We wanted that one back so bad,” senior captain Rowan Lapi said. “You felt that as soon as you walked in the locker room this morning. We thought we could beat them last time and knew it was a beatable team.” 

The game didn’t exactly start the Wildcats’ way. Rutgers looked more dangerous from the get-go, and scored their first goal just eight minutes in. Sara Brocious fed Riley Tiernan at the far post with a pass across the six yard box and Tiernan found the far corner to score. 

“It was just a matter of feeling it out,” Northwestern head coach Michael Moynihan said. “I didn’t think we started slow or got too anxious over going down. This is a team that’s come back from the beginning of the season so we knew we could do that.” 

The Scarlet Knights’ lead wouldn’t last for long. At the 22 minute mark, Lapi lined up from distance and found the back of the net with a left-footed-shot despite the effort of Rutger’s goalie Meagan McClelland.

The first half would remain a back and forth contest and finished tied up at 1-1. 

But the second half was all Northwestern. 

Eight minutes into the second half, Nicole Doucette sent a long ball into the box, just out of the reach of Aurea del Carman and Lily Gilbertson. A misjudgement by McClelland and the Rutgers backline allowed the ball to go in, giving Doucette her first goal of the season.

Shortly after the go-ahead goal, Northwestern would switch from its 3-6-1 formation to a 4-2-3-1 to close out the contest defensively. Moynihan credited Lapi with calling for the change.

“The fact that he can look at me and trust that I’m making that decision and seeing things well really means a lot,” Lapi said. “The bond we all have together means the world to everyone. Really happy he trusted me cause we can see things differently from out here.”

The Wildcats saw the second half out comfortably, only giving up one shot on goal after the break. They now await the winner of Penn State and Wisconsin to see who they’ll meet in Thursday’s semifinal. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. CT. 

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