Northwestern Is In The Midst Of A Season For The Ages
Northwestern is in the midst of one of its best seasons in program history. With one regular-season Big Ten series remaining in 2022, the Wildcats are currently 38-7 overall and sit in first place in the conference standings at 18-2.
Since the season's start, Northwestern has appeared to be a special team. With stars on its roster like senior ace Danielle Williams, who leads the Big Ten in wins with 24, and graduate student outfielder Rachel Lewis, who leads the Big Ten in home runs with 20, the team had high expectations entering the campaign.
And the Wildcats have not disappointed. Their February win over UCLA at the St. Pete-Clearwater Elite Invitational put the nation on notice, proving that they are the real deal this year with the extra-inning win over a national powerhouse.
“Everybody kind of wanted us to win because we were the underdog in the game,” Lewis said.
But the big wins didn't end with the UCLA victory. Northwestern has mostly cruised through its ultra-competitive Big Ten schedule, and has also taken down Clemson, Oregon, Washington, Missouri and Stanford this season.
“We're meant to be here and we knew we could be here from the start,” added Lewis about Northwestern's run in the top 10 of most national polls for almost the entire duration of the season.
To head coach Kate Drohan, the Wildcats' success this year does not come as a surprise. She knew this team was hungry and had a special quality from the start of their time together in the fall.
“There have been certain practices where our team has showed up, and they're hungry to get better.” Drohan said. “I think those moments have been just as impactful as the big come-from-behind victories as well.”
In hindsight, Northwestern’s success seemed inevitable entering the 2022 season. In 2019, when the team's now-seniors were freshmen, the Wildcats advanced to a super regional and ended the season with a conference winning percentage of .913 and an overall winning percentage of .783.
After the COVID seasons, through which Northwestern still maintained stellar numbers, their seniors have matured and the depth and strength of their current lineup is undeniable.
“It's a momentum we're building and the fact that...really everyone can perform, builds confidence going to the postseason,” said Lewis.
And thanks to the Wildcats' success this year, fans are coming out in droves to watch one of the nation's best teams perform on its home field in Evanston, Ill.
“It's cool seeing softball being more welcomed, represented and having more people be interested in watching our game,” senior Maeve Nelson said.
Even with the high probability of hosting both a regional and super regional this year, the Wildcats are still just focused on the day that is in front of them, which has been a big emphasis by Northwestern's leadership this year.
“It's all about what we can do today,” Drohan said. “If we can get our team to stay in the moment, we'll be in good shape.”