With 68 days until
football fútbol season, I know the burning question every Wildcat fan is thinking about this summer...Will new head coach Michael Moynihan turn around the Northwestern Women's soccer team next fall? The women's soccer team has struggled to find a winning formula that seemingly every other women's program at Northwestern has found. NU has become somewhat of a women's sports powerhouse with lacrosse winning seven national titles in eight years, tennis capturing 14 Big Ten Crowns, softball consistently competing deep into the NCAA's, swimming & diving having enough all-americans to fill the 750 gallon pool at SPAC, and even fencing having a few Midwest team titles. So, why hasn't women's soccer joined the party? It's not as if they are bare of talent and girls are only going to programs that are stepping stones to make the now defunct WPS (Women's Professional Soccer) league. Northwestern would seem like as good of a place as any to get top talent and establish a winning culture. Enter Moynihan.
Now, it would be unreasonable to expect Moynihan to turn the 2-16-1 ‘Cats into NCAA tournament contenders in his first year at the helm, although if Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis can star in a rated R movie about a teddy bear, I guess anything is possible. However, there is much reason to be optimistic about the future of the program, if not an overnight transformation. Moynihan comes to NU with a rich winning background and strong family culture from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee where he led the Panthers to nine NCAA Tournament appearances, 13 Horizon League Championships and eight Horizon League Tournament titles in 15 seasons as head coach. Soccer literally runs in the Moynihan family as he was the assistant to his sister his first four years at Milwaukee and had the home field named after his late mother, Laura, who also coached at UW-M. While Moynihan can't bring Laura Moynihan Field with him, he will bring his passion and joy for the game that should be contagious amongst the Wildcat players.
Although, there is no guarantee that Moynihan's Horizon League success will translate into Big Ten wins and a third ever NCAA appearance ('96 and '98) for Northwestern, it at the very least brings a necessary change from the status quo. Unfortunately, former head coach, Stephanie (Erickson) Foster's success as a player ('94-'97) at NU was never duplicated on the sidelines at her alma mater where she compiled at 42-62-13 record with no NCAA appearances in six years as head coach . Still, I'm sure it wasn't easy to let go the school's former all-time leading scorer, but Athletic Director, Jim Phillips, knew that it was time to head in a different direction. Phillips has really shown a commitment to excellence in his brief tenure at NU and making an extremely tough choice to not renew Foster's contract and persuade Moynihan to pick up his family and move to Evanston after 19 years (15 as head coach) of success in Milwaukee is a testament to that. Phillips wants NU athletics to reach the likes of Stanford, Notre Dame, Duke, etc. For women's soccer, bringing in a guy proven on this level is a good start and a better hire than Michael Jordan would've made if he was inexplicably the Northwestern A.D. His Airness probably would've brought in the New Trier High School assistant coach to turn the program around, but that's neither here nor there.
Overall, Moynihan seems like a great fit to join the Northwestern family and attempt to
revive the program. It will be interesting to see if Moynihan tries to establish an attack oriented style of play like Jürgen Klinsmann has tried to implement with the U.S. Men's national team with mixed results or try to grind out victories with defense and toughness like Tim Lenahan did when he took over the men's soccer team at NU coming off a winless season. I would guess the latter and predict an 8-9-3 record using advanced sabermetrics where I took the W.A.R.P (Wins Above Replacement Player) of the returning starters then divided that by the square root of the booters and runners on the squad and then factored in that their adjusted win percentage was higher than their actual percentage with nine one-goal defeats last season so they should progress toward the mean. Just kidding, but I do expect a marginal improvement next year and to be competing for NCAA tournament berths in three to four years. It remains to be seen if women's soccer will ever get up there with the elite programs, but if Moynihan can establish a strong culture, recruit blue chip players and develop all-americans like he has in the past, you never know.