Back in Evanston after playing last year's home games at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Illinois, Northwestern will attempt to recover from a disappointing 2015 campaign without a few key departed stars.

Midfielder Cole Missimo and forward Joey Calistri, the second-leading scorer in NU history, have both moved on to the professional ranks and goalkeeper Zak Allen, who led the Big Ten in saves last season, has also graduated.

But the Wildcats do return five of their top seven scorers from last year's team, including senior forward Mike Roberge and sophomore midfielder Camden Buescher — one of the team's most reliable starters as a freshman a year ago. On the back end, a foursome of freshman defenders will be tasked with replacing departed seniors Henry Herrill and Nati Schnitman, and junior Francisco Tomasino will be the eldest goalkeeper on the roster in Allen's absence.

This new-look roster will be tasked with restarting the program's 12-year streak of .500-or-better seasons that was snapped last fall.

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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.

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Northwestern ended last season with a bitter taste in its mouth, losing in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals to top-seeded Maryland in double overtime. But the Wildcats will have the chance to cleanse their palates this year, when the team faces six opponents who bested them in games last season.

However, NU will have to move forward without the seven seniors who graduated following last year's tragic loss to the Terrapins. The Cats lose four seniors who started in all 21 matches last season, including second-team All-American back Lisa McCarthy.

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Of all 19 varsity sports teams at Northwestern, the women's golf team may have suffered the most heartbreaking end to a season of any squad on campus last year.

Needing to finish in the top-8 after the fourth round of stroke play at the NCAA Championship in order to qualify for the team match play round of competition, the Wildcats came up a single stroke short of qualification, taking 1,167 strokes over the four days to Oregon's 1,166 and heading home needing just more than what they turned in, the best season in school history.

Amid the heartbreak is one positive sign for this coming year — the entire starting lineup from last year's team is back.

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Northwestern is looking to build on a promising, if inconsistent, 2015-16 season, which ended with seventh-place finish in an NCAA Regional tournament, two spots short of qualifying for the NCAA Championship.

The team's biggest star is junior Dylan Wu, who led the Wildcats in scoring average, top-10 and top-20 finishes. His two third-place finishes were the best of any NU golfer last year.

Wu and junior Sam Triplett are the only returning upperclassmen on the team, as the only other Cats to play in all 11 tournaments last year, Josh Jamieson and Andrew Whalen, both graduated in 2016.

This leaves coach David Inglis with a wide open roster coming into the year, as five golfers compete for the team in each tournament, and while Wu is almost certain to compete in each tournament, the other four spots will likely be wide open.

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Northwestern's 2015 season was a roller coaster ride. Despite finishing under .500 for the first time since 2008, the Wildcats experienced some truly memorable moments. On October 10, NU took down defending national champion Penn State in front of a packed home crowd, by all accounts one of the biggest wins in program history.

However, the valleys seemed deeper than the peaks were high. There were numerous stretches last season when, on a long losing streak, the Cats failed to even win a set. NU went 6-14 in conference games, though that record can partially be attributed to the fact that the Big Ten is arguably the best volleyball conference in the country.

The Cats are hoping some changes will rectify these problems. Shane Davis was hired as the new coach, replacing Keylor Chan after Chan spent 16 years at the helm.

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When Olympian Jordan Wilimovsky returns to Evanston in the fall, Northwestern's traditionally small team should get a big boost.

Without Wilimovsky, who holds school records in three events and qualified for the NCAA Championships each of his first three seasons as a Wildcat, NU finished eighth at the Big Ten Championships and did not send a swimmer to the NCAA meet. Wilimovsky, who won the 10-kilometer open water world championship in 2015, took the 2015-16 school year off to focus on training for the 2016 Summer Olympics.

The Cats had no standout performers and lost eight straight dual meets, including all four Big Ten matchups, to close the regular season. NU won just one dual against a Division I opponent, a late-October victory over crosstown rival UIC.

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Northwestern improved handsomely last season, its first under coach Abby Steketee.

After taking 10th at the 2014 Big Ten Championships — the team's lowest finish since 1983 — the Wildcats scored more than three times as many points in 2015's edition to finish eighth overall.

At Big Tens, NU was led by then-freshman diver Olivia Rosendahl who finished second in platform diving and went on to place fourth in the event at the NCAA Diving Championships.

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In the spring's outdoor track and field season, none of Northwestern's runners earned a berth in the NCAA West Regional Championships, which first-year coach 'A Havahla Haynes set as her team's goal.

But although the Wildcats did not meet the goal that Haynes set for them and are set to lose a lot of runners to graduation, there were signs that the team could be on the rise entering this fall's cross country season.

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