Five years ago, Northwestern was not very good at field hockey. That year, 2008, the Wildcats finished 7-13 overall, 1-5 in the Big Ten. They’ve certainly come a long way since then.
Only one current NU player can remember the days when two Big Ten wins was cause for celebration. Having been around even longer than coach Tracey Fuchs, redshirt senior Kaylee Pohlmeyer has a unique perspective on the Cats’ progress over the last few seasons.
“The program has drastically improved since I’ve been here,” she said. “When I started out here as a freshman, we maybe won one Big Ten game a season … I credit the improvement to the mentality of the team. I think we all just really believe in what we’re doing now compared to freshman year.”
The No. 8 Wildcats (16-3, 4-2 Big Ten) will begin the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday in Iowa City, Iowa, against Indiana (9-8, 0-6 Big Ten), a team NU beat 4-0 on Oct. 12. The Cats enter the tournament as the second seed, after being awarded a tie-breaker over Michigan and Iowa, both also 4-2 in conference. Because top-seeded Penn State has a bye in the first round of the seven-team tournament, NU takes on the last-place Hoosiers in the opening round. Coming off a disappointing loss to Iowa on Sunday, Fuchs said focus is the key to a bounce-back win against Indiana.
“We had a good conversation about Sunday’s game,” she said. “And we’re just going to take it one game at a time and not look at championships or anything. We’re just going to focus on Indiana and what we need to do to beat them.”
Goalkeeper Maddy Carpenter attributed the loss Sunday to nerves before a big game and a departure from the team’s game plan. Like Fuchs, Carpenter wants to see a more focused Cats squad against the Hoosiers.
“We’re going to go back to our game plan, just play the way that we do,” the sophomore said. “We just want to come out with some fire.”
Pohlmeyer, who has never advanced past the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, says she is especially motivated to play deep into the weekend. The fifth-year senior missed all of last season with a torn ACL and meniscus, unable to play in what should have been her senior season. When she first suffered the injury, Pohlmeyer said she was crestfallen.
“At the time, I was completely devastated,” she said. “I was looking forward to my last season with my class, who I had become very close with … Obviously I wanted to be out on the field.”
While sidelined, Pohlmeyer helped the team any way she could, videotaping games and updating the team’s social media platforms. According to Fuchs, the now-graduate student passed up several job offers in order to return for a fifth season. On the eve of her final Big Ten Tournament, Pohlmeyer said she sees the injury differently.
“I can honestly say (the injury) was a blessing in disguise,” she said. “I’m in grad school now, and getting to play on a team with such talent and that is doing so well is everything I wanted when I committed to Northwestern. Now that I’m getting it in my fifth season, it’s really incredible.”