Field Hockey: Seniors hope to lead the Wildcats to victory

Mike Marut, Reporter

Friday marks Northwestern’s (14-4, 4-1 Big Ten) final regular season game this year — and the last ever for the seniors.

Seniors Nikki Parsley and Tara Puffenberger have brought this team to a whole new level of field hockey. Parsley stepped up this season as the goals leader, and Puffenberger guided the team as the only returning All-American. Now both Parsley and Puffenberger have reached the end of their regular season careers as they prepare to take on Ohio State.

“The biggest thing going into Friday is just taking it like every other game,” Parsley said. “I think it’s a pretty big game because there is still a possibility we could be co-regular season champs if Penn State happens to lose to Michigan and we beat Ohio State, we would tie for the conference, so it’s a pretty big game.”

Puffenberger shared that sentiment.

“I don’t think we are going to treat it any differently,” Puffenberger said. “Hopefully this isn’t our last home game. If we do well in the Big Ten (Tournament) we could maybe, possibly, get a home seed for the first round of NCAA. I think that’s in the back of our heads … that that’s a chance for us, which is a huge honor and something that’s really exciting. Other than that, everything is the same, it’s just a game.”

Although Ohio State has yet to tack on a win in conference, it is still a good team. Ohio State went into overtime with both Michigan and Indiana and only lost by one goal to Michigan State. In the Wildcats’ matches against those teams, NU beat Michigan 4-1, Indiana 2-0, and Michigan State 2-1.

“It’s going to be a tough match,” coach Tracey Fuchs said. “Their record is deceiving. They’re a very good team. They’ve played some tough matches and just haven’t come out on top.”

Last time out against the Buckeyes, the Cats fell 3-2 in Columbus. That loss came during the conference opener last season. Now, the tables have turned and NU closes out the regular season with Ohio State and is coming off a big win against Michigan State.

As with any athletic contest, practice is a time for fixing and improving. Despite the Cats’ .777 winning percentage this year, they still have work to do before they reach perfection.

“There’s always something to fix,” Fuchs said. “We’re trying to get better at bringing the ball out of the defense. We’re trying to get better inside our attacking circle. Our corners are getting better but the better they are the more games you’re going to win.”

The seniors have led the team out of the shadows and into the light of victory over the past four years. Since 2010, the team is 53-35. The four years previous to that, the team had a combined record of 31-47.

“This group has been amazing,” Fuchs said. “This year and last year combined is my first class. They’ve been through it all and changed our program. We are now consistently one of the top ten or fifteen teams in the country and top two or three in the Big Ten. It takes time to change that culture, and this group was instrumental in changing our program and putting us back on the map.”

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