Field Hockey: Armstrong nets 100th goal as Wildcats sweep weekend

Alex Putterman, Reporter

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In a sport ruled by round numbers, Northwestern’s most prolific scorer now has one of her own.

On a glowing Sunday afternoon, senior midfielder Chelsea Armstrong knocked home four goals in a 6-0 victory over Missouri State to become the first NU player — and third in Big Ten history — to score 100 career goals.

Armstrong’s lengthy list of accolades through her first three years in Evanston includes three first-team All-Big Ten selections, two Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year awards, and two first-team All-American honors. The Aussie was already NU’s all-time leader in points and goals heading into the season and has only added to her historic stat-line with a nation-leading 29 goals in 2012, also a school record.

Though Armstrong downplayed the milestone, calling it “just a little bit of a distraction,” coach Tracey Fuchs was effusive about her star.

“She’s been amazing,” Fuchs said after Armstrong’s 100th goal. “If you look how excited everybody else was for her today, it just is a testament to her leadership and what she’s done for our team, our program, and Northwestern. She’s a one-of-a-kind for a coach, and I’m glad I have her for a few more games.”

Having beaten No. 20 Michigan State (9-7, 2-2 Big Ten) in a 2-1 thriller Friday before handling Missouri State (4-11) Sunday, the No. 8 Cats (16-2, 4-1 Big Ten) have now won eight consecutive games and stand one win from a Big Ten championship.

While Friday’s Big Ten clash meant more in the standings and produced great on-field drama with sophomore goalkeeper Maddy Carpenter saving two Spartan shots in the game’s final 10 seconds, Sunday’s senior day incited just as many cheers and far more tears.

“It’s an emotional day,” said Armstrong, whose mother flew from her home in France to see the game. “My mom was getting pretty emotional before it.”

Five seniors — Armstrong, Shannon Disbrow, Colleen Petronchak, Kaylee Pohlmeyer and Amanda Wirth — were honored in a pregame ceremony, during which each senior, accompanied by her parents, was presented with a framed jersey. Pohlmeyer, a redshirt senior in her fifth year in the program, spoke afterward about the significance of the occasion.

“Senior day meant so much to me this year,” she said. “Coming in as a freshman and being a part of a team that wasn’t as successful, and just to see this team built from the bottom up, words can’t even explain, and it’s just really awesome to be a part of this.”

Winning streaks, scoring milestones, and senior appreciation aside, NU is singular in its focus moving forward. Fuchs, who became coach in 2009, remembers a time when national rankings and Big Ten championships were nothing more than daydreams.

“When I came in we had won two Big Ten games in the last (four) years,” she said. “And just to see them grow and build — and it didn’t happen overnight — but each year we’ve been getting better and better and now we can play with anybody in the country.”

With only Saturday’s trip to Iowa between the Cats and the Big Ten championship they covet, Fuchs said she wants her players to earn and cherish the accomplishment.

“We always want a chance to vie for it,”she said. “It’s in our hands. If we play our game and get a victory next week, we’re going to be Big Ten champs for the rest of their lives, so it’s something I hope they get.”

For one of those players, it’s been a long time coming.

“I told (athletic director) Dr. (Jim) Phillips when I came, I didn’t want to leave Northwestern without a championship ring,” Pohlmeyer said, “and I think we’re going to do that this year.”