Field Hockey: Northwestern improves winning streak to 4 games

Emily Drewry, Reporter

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This weekend, Coach Tracey Fuchs watched proudly as her team pushed past age barriers and rankings.

The coach of the No. 9 Wildcats could only use one word to explain how she felt after a double win this weekend: happy. The Cats improved their 2012 overall record to 12-2, 2-1 in Big Ten competition.

The Cats notched impressive wins both on the road in Michigan on Friday and at home against Kent State on Sunday to increase their current winning streak to four. The team is currently undefeated against ranked foes in away contests.

The Cats had all hands on deck this weekend, especially in the form of the newest members of their squad: the powerful freshman class.

Every goal scored by the Cats in Friday’s 4-1 win was the contribution of a freshman. Because both Michigan and Northwestern have 11 freshmen on their respective rosters, Fuchs said she was especially pleased to see the younger members of her team step up to the plate Friday.

“Our freshmen now are playing like sophomores and juniors, and that’s honestly really going to help us when we get into postseason,” Fuchs said.

For multiple reasons, Friday’s matchup had the Cats fired up and looking to silence their opponent. The team, fresh off an exciting overtime win against No. 6 Penn State, hoped to continue the streak against ranked opponents.

Even so, the game in Ann Arbor stood out from the rest in terms of importance. It was only last year that the Big Ten competitors saw themselves battling in overtime; for older members of the team on Friday, last season’s double overtime loss to the Wolverines was not far from mind.

“They say that the game isn’t personal,” sophomore goalkeeper Maddy Carpenter said. “But for a lot of us, it felt personal.”

The first 10 minutes of the game belonged to Michigan, with a goal by Rachael Mack just more than five minutes into the game. The Cats did not catch pace until 18 minutes in, when they got their first shot on goal and continued to dominate possession for the remainder of the game.

The Cats plowed uncontested through the competition against Kent State Sunday, finishing with eight unanswered goals on the scoreboard.

“We came out firing,” Fuchs said. “I’m just happy we got everyone in who is able to play.”

The entire team was part of the 8-0 effort. As a transfer currently playing her first year at NU, junior Tara Puffenberger said the team dynamic is “very special.”

“It’s about winning as a team, not as an individual,” she said.

Puffenberger contributed three goals Sunday, all within the first half, as the Cats headed into halftime with a 5-0 lead. The following three goals trickled in after halftime. The team was able to rotate players comfortably throughout the second half of play.

Carpenter split time in the goal with senior Amanda Wirth, and each had two saves.

Fuchs said her mind after the weekend is focused on the positive performances but also on the details that can be perfected for upcoming contests. The Cats aim to continue the streak and remain focused on their objectives rather than their opponents.

“Whether we’re winning or losing, we’re always the same team,” she said.

The Cats remain at home for the next two weekends, hosting Indiana in Evanston at 3 p.m. Friday.