Sept. 23, 2004
EVANSTON, Ill. --
After allowing six goals in as many matches to start the season -- including three straight shutouts -- Northwestern had every right to be feeling good about things as Big Ten play started last weekend.
It did not take long for the sobering reality to kick in, though: things are a lot different once you dive into conference play.
The Wildcats allowed six goals in two matches, three apiece to Michigan and Michigan State. And while they scored four of their own, the obvious emphasis for this weekend's games with Wisconsin (Friday at 4 p.m.) and Drake (Sunday at 1 p.m.) will be keeping the ball out of their own goal.
"We need to get off to good starts, especially Friday," said NU head coach Jenny Haigh. "Last weekend we started slow in both games and it cost us. We cannot allow that to happen against Wisconsin."
Friday's game should be dripping with intensity. The Badgers come to Evanston ranked 25th in the country and with a 6-1-1 record. The loss and tie both came last weekend, however, and so the two teams that take the field Friday afternoon will be looking to gain their first Big Ten victory.
"It is going to be a big game for both of us," said Haigh, who played at Wisconsin. "It is so helpful to get off to a good start in this conference, because there are so many good teams. Any win is a good win, and Friday's result will certainly be important for both teams.
"Wisconsin has some very good players," she continued. "I expect them to be opportunistic up front, and they have some very good midfielders. But we need to approach this game the way we approach every game -- that it is winnable if we do the things we need to do."
Following Friday's contest, the Wildcats go out of conference to face a Drake team that begins the weekend 3-4-1 (the Bulldogs host Loyola Friday). Is there any fear of a letdown?
"I think at this point we treat every game with the same amount of respect," said Haigh. "If we focus on the things we need to do to win the games, then hopefully we will be OK."
Some notes on the `Cats...
* NU trails the all-time series with Wisconsin 10-2. The Badgers have won each of the last two meetings, 2-1. The last Wildcat win came in 2001, a 1-0 overtime decision in Madison.
* NU is 1-3 all-time in Evanston against the Badgers.
* Friday's game marks NU's second this season against a team ranked in the NSCAA national poll. Last week the Wildcats lost to then-No. 25 Michigan 3-2.
* NU is meeting Drake for the first time in women's soccer. The Bulldogs are a third-year varsity program.
* Sunday's match is the only out-of-conference game the Wildcats will play in an 11-match stretch dating from last weekend until October 22.
* NU has scored 18 goals through eight matches this season. Last year, the Wildcats scored 21 goals in 19 matches.
* NU's Kelsey Hans has eight goals this season, tying her with Christie Molitor for the school record for goals by a freshman in one season (Molitor set the mark in 1996). The Wildcats still have 11 regular-season matches left in the 2004 campaign.
* The school record for goals in a season is 14, also set in 1996 by current Wildcat assistant Stephanie Erickson.
* The only other season in which the team's leading scorer had more than seven goals, dating to the first varsity season of 1994, was 1997 when Erickson had nine.
* Hans made her first collegiate start Sunday at Michigan State; she was one of three freshmen in the starting lineup for the Wildcats. Beth Martin has started all eight matches on defense, and Kelly Sitkowski has started the last six in the midfield after missing the first two matches of the season with an injury.
* Senior Ashleigh Garmon scored her second goal of 2004 last weekend at Michigan; she now has 15 goals in her career, which puts her eighth on NU's all-time list.