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Morning Roundup: September 19, 2016

by Max Schuman 0 Comments
Morning Roundup: September 19, 2016
(Leeks Lim/The Daily Northwestern)

The Daily is back in publication today, which means our coverage of fall sports is in full swing as the school year begins.

Headlining our first day of print for the fall…

  • Tim Balk recapped football’s big win over Duke, getting the team to 1-2 on the season in the class of 2020’s first game in attendance.
  • Bobby Pillote takes a look at the highs and lows of Clayton Thorson’s performance Saturday, which proved to be enough to pull out the win.
  • Garrett Jochnau writes about women’s soccer’s victory over Purdue, its ninth-straight to start the season.
  • Aidan Markey reviews the weekend in Northwestern volleyball, as new coach Shane Davis and his team won two of three games in a tournament hosted by Northern Iowa

Tomorrow, we’ll be back with more recaps of the weekend’s events, including a big result for the men’s soccer team against one of the best teams in the country.

Women’s Soccer at James Madison: Key Matchup

After Northwestern squeaked out an overtime victory against VCU on Friday, the Wildcats are set to finish their first weekend of the season with a showdown with James Madison, an NCAA Tournament qualifier from last season. The game will kick off at 1 p.m.

Matchup to Watch: Dukes forward Ashley Herndon vs. NU’s defense

James Madison’s greatest offensive threat is its dynamic attacker Ashley Herndon, who netted 14 goals last season to lead the Dukes. She has the pedigree to make any team nervous, as the senior was named the CAA’s preseason player of the year and was invited to a U.S. Women’s National Team U-23 camp in May. Defenses can’t just play her purely as a threat to score, either — she notched six assists last season and was credited with an assist on James Madison’s opening goal of its first game this year, a 4-3 double overtime defeat to Arkansas.

Meanwhile, the Cats’ defense picked up where they left off last season in their opener, holding the Rams to just one shot on goal in a shutout victory. The back line has proven to have the talent and cohesion to stop star players in the past. NU needed extra time to break through with a goal against VCU, underscoring the importance of keeping a player like Herndon from putting the Cats behind early.

Fall Sports Preview – Women’s Soccer: After NCAAs berth, Wildcats going for more

Fall Sports Preview – Women’s Soccer: After NCAAs berth, Wildcats going for more
(Daily file photo by Nathan Richards)

It’s been a long road back to national relevance for Northwestern. But for the first time in 17 years, last year’s Wildcats made the NCAA Tournament, setting the bar high for this season’s squad.

After a banner year that was capped off by an appearance in the second round of the NCAAs after a dramatic victory over Washington State in the first round, NU coach Michael Moynihan will look to consolidate his program’s position as a force to be reckoned with in the Big Ten and nationally. And with many key contributors returning from last season’s young team, the Cats are poised for another memorable season.

NU was a defensive-minded team last year, looking to grind out results and rely on a strong presence at the back. That figures to stay the same this season, as all of the Cats’ first-choice starters in the back — junior goalkeeper Lauren Clem and outside backs Kassidy Gorman and Nikia Smith and sophomore center backs Kayla Sharples and Hannah Davison — return a year after notching a school-record 12 shutouts and finishing in the top 10 in the country in goals-against average.

To take the next step, NU will need to find ways to score at a better clip than last season’s 1.18 goals per game. Much of that burden will fall on junior forward Michelle Manning, a diminutive, confident attacker whose double-overtime goal lifted the Cats over the Cougars in the NCAAs. If the midfield, led by fifth-year senior Nandi Mehta and sophomore Marisa Viggiano, can control possession and provide good service, Manning has proven capable of finishing her chances when it counts.

The schedule appears to set up favorably for NU to rack up wins, as the non-conference slate features a single qualifier for the NCAAs, James Madison, while the Cats avoid last season’s top two regular-season finishers in the Big Ten, Wisconsin and defending national-champion Penn State. If NU can get by teams like Michigan and Minnesota at home and show well on the road against a usually-strong Rutgers team, the Cats could match or exceed last season’s record and make another compelling case for a spot in the NCAAs.