Field Hockey: Carpenter and the Cats prepare for Michigan State

Alex Putterman, Reporter

No team has ever won a field hockey game without scoring a goal, so the Wildcats have simply decided not to allow any.

No. 9 Northwestern (14-2, 3-1 Big Ten) has now gone three straight games without giving up a goal, its first such streak since 1994 and one it’ll put on the line Friday against No. 20 Michigan State (9-7, 2-2 Big Ten) at Lakeside Field.

After a week during which goalie Maddy Carpenter and the Cats’ defense shut out both Indiana and Central Michigan, limiting their opponents to one and four shots on goal, in 4-0 and 8-0 victories, respectively, the sophomore was rewarded with Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week honors.

Carpenter, who tops the Big Ten with a 1.01 goals-against average and ranks third with a .759 save percentage, attributed much of the personal success to the comfort, poise and confidence that come with experience.

In other words, “I love not being a freshman anymore,” she said.

Asked what’s been right with her team’s defense, coach Tracey Fuchs agreed with Carpenter’s self-assessment and expanded on what has fueled the team’s recent goal-stopping successes.

“Maddy being a year older,” Fuchs said. “She’s become one of the best goalkeepers in the Big Ten. … I think the defense is really coming into their own. We’ve had a couple of young players in there, and now they’re really developing.”

Carpenter agreed that the defenders have stepped up.

“If the ball doesn’t get to me, it can’t go in,” she said. “(Last weekend) I had loads and loads of help from my defense. They’ve been making my job pretty easy.”

NU will look to maintain momentum on both sides of the ball against the Spartans, who have won three of four amidst a six-game stretch of road match-ups. During the Cats’ current six-game winning streak, they have have outscored opponents 29-6, including 22-1 over their last three contests.

Key to that success has been senior midfielder Chelsea Armstrong, the Big Ten leader in points and goals scored and a player for whom Fuchs said Michigan State “will have a plan.” Armstrong’s two first-half goals against Central Michigan brought her season total to 24 for a conference-leading average of 1.5 per game.

According to the veteran, NU’s on-field chemistry has yielded results.

“Obviously we’ve been clicking really well as a team,” Armstrong said. “We’re actually looking out between the lines really well, so between the backs and the midfield and then outletting the ball to the forwards, it’s been working much better than it has previous years.”

As for Wednesday’s showdown with Michigan State, “it’s gonna be a battle,” Fuchs said. “It’s a really important game and a really important time in our season.”

Only two games, one in conference, remain for NU after Friday. The Cats will host Missouri State on Sunday, their fifth consecutive home date, before closing the regular season Oct.28 in Iowa City against the Hawkeyes and beginning the Big Ten Tournament three days later. The team has high long-term aspirations, but first comes Michigan State.

“They’re looking to just spoil our day,” Armstrong said. “We’re used to a chance to win the Big Ten championship, so I think they’re just out to try and ruin that for us.”