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

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

The Daily Northwestern

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Field Hockey: First-half struggles continue

A poor first period doomed Northwestern once again, as the team came up short in yet another attempt to knock off a top-10 team and conference foe.

The Wildcats (6-10, 0-4 Big Ten) were unable to capitalize on their early scoring chances in a 4-0 loss Sunday to No. 10 Penn State (11-4, 3-0) at the Leonard B. Thomas Athletic Complex. The Nittany Lions scored all four of their goals in the opening 35 minutes, relentlessly attacking the Wildcats’ defense with 17 shots on goal and 12 penalty corners in the half.

NU played a strong first 10 minutes offensively, sustaining three drives in Penn State’s defensive third and compiling two penalty corners and a shot on goal.

But the Cats’ inability to take advantage of those opportunities opened the door for the Nittany Lions to take control of the game. Fifteen minutes ticked before NU was able to maintain another offensive possession in opposing territory.

“The biggest thing with field hockey is that it’s a high-transition game,” coach Kelly McCollum said. “When you have the momentum, you need to hammer it home. Our execution of our corners and our finishing in those first 10 minutes didn’t give us the edge we needed, and then the momentum shifted towards them.”

Penn State scored its first goal a little less than 12 minutes into the half.

Falling behind early has been the kiss of death for NU. The Cats have allowed at least one goal in the opening 15 minutes of every game it has lost, only managing to come back and tie the score once.

Penn State earned 22 penalty corners, putting a lot of pressure on the NU defense. McCollum said the Nittany Lions were able to take advantage of her team’s slow footwork to give themselves dangerous opportunities that put them ahead.

“We’re really going to have to bear down on our discipline,” junior midfielder Stephanie Fortson said.

To the defense’s credit, NU held Penn State to only one goal on those penalty corners. Both Fortson and McCollum said the Cats’ penalty corner defense struggled last weekend against No. 3 Wake Forest, and there was noticeable improvement against the Nittany Lions.

On the flip side, NU continued to struggle executing its own penalty corners. The team has gone three straight games without scoring in those situations

“That’s been an area of improvement for us all season long,” McCollum said. “We’ve been trying new personnel. We’ve been trying new options. We’ve been trying different personnel again, new options, trying practice under pressure. When we produce (10) corners against a top-10 opponent, there should be one or two goals on the board – and we’re not doing it.”

Penn State midfielder Allison Scola created the most problems for NU’s defense. Scola, who won Big Ten and National Player of the Week honors after helping the Nittany Lions knock off two top-10 opponents last weekend, scored two goals on six shots on goal and added an assist in the first half.

McCollum said Scola’s quickness and ability to move with the ball make her dangerous. But the coach was pleased with how the defense contained Scola after halftime.

“In the second half Stacy Uchida did a great job on her and really helped take her out of the game,” McCollum said.

The team struggled to move the ball around on offense. While the Cats did manage to work together at times, more often than not an individual player tried to take the ball into the circle without turning to her teammates for help. As a result, Penn State forced a lot of turnovers.

“When we were successful, we moved the ball as a team when we got into the attack third and passed around Penn State versus being ‘dribbling queens,'” McCollum said.

Though the Cats have dropped their first four conference games this season and their last 17 Big Ten contests overall, McCollum is proud of how her players are fighting and not letting the losses get to them. There are still two opportunities left in the regular season to break the streak, plus the Big Ten tournament at the end of the season, when everyone returns to 0-0.

“Things are really starting to mix up in the Big Ten,” McCollum said. “It’s going to be anyone’s game from here on in.”

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Field Hockey: First-half struggles continue