Jan. 4, 2007
EVANSTON, Ill. --The Wildcats headed into the 2006 season with one of the hardest schedules in the nation, with 12-of-17 contests versus ranked opponents and teams that received votes in the final NFHCA national poll. The 'Cats entered the campaign looking to improve on their goal of becoming one of the nation's best by playing the best the nation had to offer.
Northwestern jumped out to a fast start winning three of the first four games against the likes of Miami University, Ball State, Missouri State and Maine before going on the most difficult road trip of the campaign, facing No. 10 Virginia, No. 19 American and second-ranked and defending national champion Maryland.
Virginia was the first stop on the east-coast swing, playing host for an early September match. The game was a defensive battle early on with NU keeping the Cavaliers scoreless in the first half. Early in the second stanza, Virginia finally broke through the 'Cat's defense to score three goals in a three-minute span bringing the score to 3-0 with 40 minutes left. Freshman Elizabeth Dobbs responded with the first goal of her career and Megan Sieberg scored her first goal of the season to pull the 'Cats to within one score with 29 minutes remaining. But that is as close as Northwestern would get, as Virginia fought off the comeback to preserve a 3-2 victory.
The second game of the road trip brought the 'Cats to American, where NU met a similar unlucky fate. The Eagles put two quick goals on the board, and the Wildcats were playing uphill for the rest of the match. Cassie Miller found the back of the cage on an assist from classmate Amanda Care to bring NU to within one, only for American to respond with its third goal a minute and a half later, bringing the lead back to two with a score of 3-1. Northwestern's defense got down to business in the second half and thanks to five saves by sophomore goalkeeper Emily Kyle, American was held scoreless in the second half. Dobbs scored her second goal of the season and career in the second half on an assist from Annie Bosslet, but it was not enough as the Wildcats fell to American, 3-2.
In keeping with the program's mantra, "To be the best, you have to play the best," Northwestern took the field against the defending national champion Maryland in the final match of the road stretch. NU held the Terps scoreless in the first 15 minutes of regulation until Maryland went on a 3-0 scoring run and entered the half with a commanding advantage. The lead grew to six in the second half but the 'Cats responded with goals from sophomore Alison Bullock and Bosslet. That's as close as the game would get, as the game ended with a score of 7-2 in favor of the Terps.
The Wildcats returned home for a three game stretch, recording wins over Stanford and Yale while almost pulling out a victory in a 5-4 double overtime loss to Indiana.
NU then lost at Central Michigan, 3-2, and returned home for a matchup against Big Ten foe Michigan State. The 'Cats took an early 2-0 lead on goals by Katie Charles and Jill Putnam. MSU responded with a goal as NU went into halftime with a 2-1 lead. The score was locked at 2-1 in the second half until MSU evened up the score with 10 minutes left in regulation. With the score deadlocked at two, the game went into overtime and the 'Cats scored on a game-winner by Jill Putnam, her second goal of the game. The win over MSU was the second conference win for coach Kelly McCollum in her head-coaching career.
The Wildcats' next seven games were against six ranked conference opponents. The 'Cats dropped contests to No. 14 Iowa, No. 5 Ohio State, No. 6 Penn State, No. 14 Iowa, No. 18 Michigan and No. 6 Penn State while defeating nonconference foe Kent State, 2-1.
Several Wildcats were honored for their efforts over the season. Meghan Small and Care were awarded second-team All-Big Ten honors--the third time in the past four seasons NU earned dual All-Big Ten honorees. Care also was named to the West Region second-team by the NFHCA while Small was selected to participate in the NFHCA Senior All-Star Game.
Senior Christina Foley was named to the Big Ten All-Tournament squad while Lauren Przyborowski was Northwestern's Big Ten Sportsmanship honoree. Additionally, Sherri-Anne Nyberg, Charles, Foley, Kyle, Przyborowski, Sieberg and Small were named to the 2006 Academic All-Big Ten team.