Field Hockey: Wildcats look to go on 4-game win streak

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Susan Du/Daily Senior Staffer

Freshman midfielder Isabel Flens stares down the field as senior midfielder Tara Puffenberger follows closely behind. The duo combine for 10 of Northwestern’s goals this season. Flens was honored with both the Big Ten Freshman of the Week and Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week awards.

Mike Marut, Reporter

Coming off a victory-filled weekend against ranked opponents Michigan and Iowa, Northwestern (10-2, 2-0 Big Ten) is setting its sights on Kent State (4-7) and Big Ten rival Penn State (7-4, 1-0).

In the National Field Hockey Coaches Association coaches poll, Penn State is ranked above NU, but in the Big Ten, the Wildcats top the Nittany Lions. In the poll, Penn State notches No. 8 while NU takes No. 10.  Within the conference, the Cats claim the No. 1 spot while the Nittany Lions have to settle for No. 2.

“Penn State is a huge rivalry for us,” senior midfielder Tara Puffenberger said.  “Obviously it’s Big Ten, and last year we went to overtime with them and ended up with a victory.  We want to get that number one spot because right now we are below them in the coaches poll.”

This week, the Big Ten awarded freshman midfielder Isabel Flens with the Freshman of the Week and Offensive Player of the Week.  She had received the former for her efforts in victories over then-No. 16 Boston and Miami (Ohio) but earned the latter for the first time in  her collegiate career. She is tied for third most goals at NU with 5.

“Those honors were for last week, so I feel I still need to go out and prove myself this week,” Flens said. “Even though in the last two games I scored 2 goals (in regulation time), it wasn’t all me. It was the whole team.”

The Netherlands native’s selflessness resonates throughout the team statistics as well.  Eight players on the team have scored goals this season, and 10 players have assists.

“We’ve been working on our possession all over the field this week,” coach Tracey Fuchs said.  “We are an attacking team, but when we lose the ball, we are really good at getting back and breaking it up, and we have to keep getting better at that.  We had a few mistakes that Michigan and Iowa didn’t capitalize on last weekend that Penn State will.”

With the Cats and the Nittany Lions taking the top two spots in the Big Ten rankings, the upcoming game will be a tight one.  Not only did the Cats receive some awards with Flens, but the Nittany Lions also raked in Defensive Player of the Week with midfielder Laura Gebhart.  Both teams have also outshot their opponents by more than 100 shots.  NU has put 33 balls in the goal, while Penn State has scored 29 times on the season.  Last season, the game went to overtime, and the Cats came up with the 5-4 victory.

“I think (penalty) corner execution could be the difference this weekend,” Fuchs said.  “We are going to do a lot of corners and tidy up what we want to call against Penn State.”

NU has scored six times off penalty corners, but the Nittany Lions have yet to put one past a goal keeper from a penalty corner this season.

Kent State field hockey has not had as much good fortune this season.  The Golden Flashes are currently on a five-game losing streak.  Within those matches, they’ve been outscored 20-6.  Last time the two teams faced off, NU came away with an 8-0 victory.

“If everybody does their job this weekend, we should be in good shape,” Fuchs said.

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