Wildcats take on Nittany Lions with Big Ten final berth on the line

By Adam Bakr

Post season play resumes for the Northwestern women’s soccer team on Thursday. The Wildcats take onPenn State in Columbus, Ohio in the second semifinal matchup of the day. 

Northwestern comes into this one after a 2-1 win over Rutgers in the quarterfinals. A highlight-reel goal from Rowan Lapi erased an early Rutgers lead. After the ‘Cats went ahead courtesy of a Nicole Doucette score,  they never looked like they were in jeopardy of conceding late in the game. After a two-game hiccup towards the end of the regular season, Northwestern looks to be back to its midseason form with back-to-back wins in ranked matchups. 

Penn State is coming into the contest after an up-and-down season. One loss in their first 10 games saw the Nittany Lions ranked No. 6 nationally in late September. After that point, they only won three of the final seven regular season games and fell out of the rankings and down to sixth in the conference. 

Despite the tough finish to the regular season, Penn State was able to knock off Wisconsin in Madison to open tournament play, beating the Badgers for the second time this season. Ally Schlegel scored the lone goal in the 1-0 win. It was Schlegel’s 11th goal of the season, the most of any player in the Big Ten. The win brought Penn State back into the top 25, now No. 21 nationally.

When the Nittany Lions win, they tend to win convincingly. All five of its regular season conference wins came by two goals or more, including a pair of 3-0 wins over Wisconsin and Michigan, and a 5-0 win over Illinois. Including the postseason, they have not conceded a goal in any of their wins over a Big Ten opponent. 

Penn State had four players named to the All-Big Ten teams – forwards Schlegel and Penelope Hocking, defender Mieke Schiemann and midfielder Amelia White. Schlegel was the lone First Team representative. 

The conference’s top assist providers go head-to -head in Thursday’s game. Josie Aulicino and Kate Wiesner each have eight assists, in the three way tie for first with Michigan State’s Ruby Diodati. 

The two teams did not meet in the regular season. The ‘Cats won last year’s meeting 2-1, with Aulicino scoring the winning goal. 

The winner of this game takes on either Michigan State or Nebraska in the final. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. CST.

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