Turn back the clock: Cats recall 1994 title

Abraham Rakov

In 1994, Nebraska won the NCAA football championship, Boyz to Men’s “I’ll Make Love to You” topped the Billboard charts and Northwestern won its fifth Big Ten field hockey championship on its way to the Final Four.

Marisa Didio coached the 1994 team that went 15-4-2 and 8-1-1 in the Big Ten.

It was the first Big Ten Championship for NU since 1988, when the team went 17-2-1 in an undefeated Big Ten season under Wildcats coaching legend Nancy Stevens, who preceded Didio.

“Field hockey goes in cycles of 5-6 years,” Didio said. “Those kids were a culmination of five seasons. They had seen success before them, and tried to continue it. But saying that, it was not a past team’s championship. It was theirs.”

This season marks the 10th anniversary of the championship season, and two key players from the team now are back in Evanston as coaches in hopes of returning NU field hockey to its glory days.

NU coach Kelly McCollum captained the 1994 team, which was ranked No. 1 five consecutive weeks, while assistant coach Jennifer Pelleriti was named to the 1994 NCAA all-tournament team.

Ten years after the season, McCollum said she remembers why that team was successful.

“I think it was teamwork,” McCollum said. “We had a lot of talented players, but we won because the whole team wanted to be a success and nothing less.”

During that season, the Cats outscored their opponents 49-18 and never lost consecutive games.

Pelleriti, who came on strong for NU during the NCAA tournament, said she also believes teamwork was the key to success.

“We won because of our team chemistry,” Pelleriti said. “I think Marisa (Didio) would have to say we were easy to coach because everyone on the team had the same goal: to win.”

When Didio made her return to NU in 2000, after a five-year absence, she brought McCollum and later Pelleriti back as assistant coaches.

“I would not have brought them back into the program if I did not feel extreme confidence in their ability to lead,” Didio said.

The Cats (6-6, 0-2 Big Ten) are starting to become a factor in the Big Ten again. They began the season 4-0 before losing six of the last eight games.

“We need to learn from the stretch of tough opponents,” McCollum said. “Now we are going through a stretch of the season where we can have a lot of success.

“Being 6-6 at this point, I think we are in a great position to accomplish what we set out to do.”

During the Cats’ current three game losing streak, they have been outscored 8-2 and outshot 51-16.

“We have worked in practice on what we needed to fix,” junior goalkeeper Sheri-Anne Nyberg said. “Now we need to just do it in the game.”

This weekend, NU takes on Indiana (7-5, 0-3) on Friday and New Hampshire (1-9) on Saturday.

Senior Candice Cooper said Indiana is a must-win game. A loss would make NU 0-3 in the Big Ten, a difficult hole to climb out of.

“We need this win to boost our confidence,” Cooper said. “It is important for our success in the Big Ten and for our success as a team.”

Reach Abraham Rakov at [email protected]