Field Hockey: Overtime loss costs Wildcats Big Ten title


Anneliese Sloves/The Daily Northwestern

The Wildcats and junior back Julia Retzky lost for the first time in nine games, a heartbreaking 3-2 overtime defeat at Iowa.

Alex Putterman, Reporter

For weeks, the Wildcats have spoken of a Big Ten title, and for weeks, that professed goal has seemed achievable and almost inevitable. On Sunday, those hopes died unrecognized, and second place became a disappointing reality.

When a victory meant a share of the Big Ten regular season title, No. 8 Northwestern (16-3, 4-2 Big Ten) fell in overtime 3-2 to No. 12 Iowa (13-5, 4-2), ending its regular season and preventing the Cats’ first conference championship since 1994.

NU struck first Sunday with a seventh-minute goal from junior Tara Puffenberger, but the offense struggled from there, going almost 30 minutes before attempting another shot – a 35th-minute try by Puffenberger that was blocked by Hawkeyes goalkeeper Kathleen McGraw seconds before halftime.

The Cats came out firing for the second half, netting their second goal in the 37th minute on junior Nikki Parsley’s third score of the season but would take only one more shot the rest of the afternoon.

Iowa responded to the NU score quickly and forcefully. The Hawkeyes tallied goals in the 45th and 47th minutes to knot the score, erasing a two-goal lead in two-and-a-half minutes.The Iowa outburst ended the Cats defense’s run of one goal allowed in more than 450 minutes of play dating back to Oct. 5.

With the score tied for much of the second half, the two sides engaged in a brutal between-the-lines battle. Each side failed to net another goal in regulation, necessitating a 10-minute golden goal overtime to decide the Cats’ Big Ten fate.

Overtime only lasted five minutes, as Iowa’s Sarah Drake ended the contest with her second goal of the day and fifth of the season in the game’s 75th minute.

Overall, Iowa outshot NU 17-5 and benefited from nine corners to NU’s two. Given these disparities, it was impressive the Cats were even in the game.

“Iowa played great today,” coach Tracey Fuchs said. “It was probably the best I’ve seen them play … We were just a little bit off. It was a great game, and we just couldn’t hold onto the lead.”

After Penn State (15-3, 5-1) defeated Michigan State (10-9, 2-4) on Saturday, the Nittany Lions ensured a share of the conference title. The best NU could do was match the Nittany Lions, but thanks to the Cats’ loss, Penn State won the conference outright.

Before falling to Iowa, NU had won eight straight and 15 out of 16 but finished the regular season in a three-way tie for second place.

“Obviously we’re very disappointed,” junior back Julia Retzky said, “but I think we’re going to use this as a learning opportunity, and we’re going to use this to fuel the fire for our team coming up.”

Coming up is the Big Ten Tournament, which begins with the quarterfinal round on Thursday, also in Iowa City. Tiebreaker rules grant NU the tournament’s second seed, and the Cats will therefore open against Indiana (9-8, 0-6), a team they topped 4-0 on Oct. 12.

“There’s definitely optimism going forward,” Retzky said. “Obviously today we’re feeling a little bit of disappointment, but once the bus ride is over we’re going to try to move past this and just focus on our game on Thursday.”