Field Hockey: NU loses conference opener, tops Maine on road

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Playing against No. 8 Michigan State on the road Friday, No. 18 Northwestern knew it would need an all-hands-on-deck effort to pick up the win in its Big Ten opener.

Yet, with two of their top players out with an illness, the Wildcats (9-3, 0-1 Big Ten) were actually short-handed as they took on the Spartans.

Minus seniors Courtney Plaster-Strange and Alyssa Elmy, NU was still able to play Michigan State to a scoreless tie in the first half, but after the intermission, the Spartans proved too much, picking up a 5-2 win over the Cats.

Although NU missed those seniors, the team kept the game close because of its depth.

“Obviously, you can’t replace Plaster(-Strange)’s offense, and Alyssa’s a wall on defense,” senior midfielder Stacy Uchida said. “But we stepped up and did alright. What’s good about the team this year is our depth. We definitely fought very hard, and we definitely had lots of opportunities.”

After halftime, Michigan State came out of the gate with three quick goals.

Midway through the second half, Cats sophomore midfielder Kaylee Pohlmeyer found the back of the net on a rebound attempt to move NU back within two. But the Spartans extended their lead back to three before NU’s Chelsea Armstrong scored to close the scoring.

Armstrong said she felt Michigan State took the momentum with its surge early in the second half, and the Cats were never able to recover.

“We let them get ahead and once a team’s a couple goals ahead of you, it’s hard to get back in,” Armstrong said. “Michigan State’s obviously a great team, but I think next time we see them, we’ll be able to stick with them longer, and hopefully win in the end.”

NU rebounded from that loss by grabbing a 3-2 overtime victory against Maine on Saturday in East Lansing, Mich. It was the Cats’ fourth overtime victory of the season.

“(The team) just really has confidence the more they play in overtime,” coach Tracey Fuchs said.

Armstrong scored all three of the Cats’ goals in the win. The sophomore, who now has 19 goals this season, moved into a tie for fifth on NU’s single-season scoring list with 45 points.

Her game-winning goal came with about five minutes remaining in overtime. Armstrong dove in front of the net and scored on an assist from Elizabeth Dobbs.

Armstrong started her goal scoring early on in the contest. Less than 10 minutes into the game, she gave NU the lead by burying a loose ball from close range. She added another goal four minutes after intermission to give NU a 2-0 lead. Maine came back, scoring two unanswered to send the game into overtime.

But Armstrong’s goal allowed NU to avoid a winless weekend. The victory helped the team maintain its confidence as it prepares for a Big Ten matchup with Michigan Friday in Evanston.

“Our team responded very well coming off of the loss Friday, coming back and winning on Saturday, ” Uchida said. “We have a few things to fix, but our team’s showing gives us confidence.”