Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

53° Evanston, IL
Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Field Hockey: Cats get ‘clean slate’

Throw away the wins. Throw away the losses. The start of the 2007 Big Ten Field Hockey Tournament means a new beginning for all of the conference teams.

For a Northwestern team that went winless in Big Ten play this season, it is exactly what the doctor ordered, as the Wildcats open up the tournament against the No. 2-seeded Michigan State Spartans in Columbus, Ohio, today.

“My experience in the Big Ten championship has showed me that when it comes to the tournament it’s a clean state, everyone has a chance to win the championship,” junior midfielder/forward Alison Bullock said.

Although starting the season off slowly and going through a seven-game losing streak, NU has gained momentum in its play, being very competitive in its last three games against No. 1-seed Michigan and tough competitors Iowa and Indiana.

To continue NU’s progress, the Cats look to have success in the Big Ten tournament but they will have to do it against a tough Michigan State team and the Spartans’ stingy defense. Michigan State comes into the tourney red hot, winning five straight games. The Spartans only lost one time in conference play this year and that was to No.1-seeded Michigan.

Michigan State’s defense is led by senior midfielder Amy Schneider, who for the second consecutive week was named Big Ten defensive player of the week. Goalkeeper Elissa Unger is also a reason for the Spartans’ success. She finished the season with 59 saves, a 14-3 record and six shutouts. One of those shutouts came against NU on Sept. 22.

Ironically, if the Cats beat the Spartans today, it would be their first Big Ten tournament win since NU beat the Spartans in 1995 and 1996. To counter attack the Spartans’ defense, the Cats’ offensive attack starts with a trio of two juniors and one sophomore who have all played a significant role in NU’s offense this season. Juniors Alex Quinn and Bullock have showed opponents how experienced athletes play. Quinn led the team in scoring this year with 17 points, scoring six goals and five assists. Bullock had six goals on the season for 12 points.

Sophomore Courtney Plaster-Strange showed she could be just as valuable to the team. Plaster-Strange had 12 points, with five goals and two assists. This is an offensive outburst for Plaster-Strange, after she only scored one goal in her freshman season.

The play of goalie Emily Kyle will be very important to complement NU’s offense. Kyle has been big for the Cats this year, with 93 saves and a save percentage of .660. Kyle is now fifth on NU’s career save list. Kyle blocked four goals earlier in the year against Michigan State in a 4-0 Cats’ loss.

If history is on the Cats’ side, they could get past Michigan State. But if NU’s play this year is any indication, it might have trouble getting out of the first round of the tournament.

Reach Cleyana Mayweather at [email protected].

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Field Hockey: Cats get ‘clean slate’