Field Hockey: Wildcats claim Big Ten crown on Senior Day


Susan Du/Daily Senior Staffer

Redshirt junior Kristin Wirtz scored one of Northwestern’s goals in its 5-0 victory over Ohio State on Friday. With the win, the Wildcats won a share of the Big Ten regular season title for the first time since 1994.

Mike Marut, Reporter

With a little help from Michigan and dominance over Ohio State, No. 14 Northwestern (15-4, 5-1 Big Ten) was named a co-Big Ten Champion alongside No. 6 Penn State.

Friday marked the seventh shutout of the season for the Wildcats, who defeated the Buckeyes 5-0. Four out of the 5 goals came from seniors. Midfielder Tara Puffenberger claimed 2, and forward Nikki Parsley and midfielder Kristin Wirtz each put 1 on the board.

After a slow start, NU picked up the pace and started shooting ball after ball at the Ohio State goalkeeper. Eventually, Sarah Lemieux let four balls past her, before coach Anne Wilkinson replaced her with Sydney Stype, who let one ball behind her with less than 16 minutes to play.

Puffenberger’s goals came from a penalty corner assisted by freshman midfielder Dominique Masters and a reverse shot assisted by redshirt freshman midfielder Ashley Bernardi. Parsley knocked it in off of sophomore defender Lisa McCarthy’s assist. Wirtz took the ball herself and slapped it in for the Cats’ final goal.

“It was just something you practice every day,” Parsley said. “We do corners over and over and over again, so it was just a matter of executing during the game. (The extra practice) has definitely helped out. It is really important to execute on corners. … The more times you’re in the 25, the more times you’re in the circle, the more chances you have to score goals, and it’s important to capitalize on those chances.”

NU had yet to claim the Big Ten championship since coach Tracey Fuchs began her tenure. The Cats last took the title in 1994, when the team’s current seniors were enrolled in pre-school.

“I (am) so happy for these seniors who are really the foundation of bringing this program back to a top-10 program,” Fuchs said. “I would be lying if I didn’t say it (is) the best thing that has happened to the program since I’ve been here.”

Overall, the game could not have gone much better for NU. They led in every statistic except corner opportunities. The Cats notched double-digit shots with 12, eight of which were on goal, and four assists. The defense held the opponents to only nine shots, and junior goalkeeper Maddy Carpenter made four saves.

“Every goal starts with the defense,” Puffenberger said. “(My) second goal really started with the defense. We’ve been working on getting outlets … and have turned it into a strength and did well with that this game.”

The team looked like a well-oiled machine, methodically picking apart Ohio State, which pleased Fuchs.

“I think it was great,” Fuchs said. “I think the first five or 10 minutes we were tentative and back on our heels, but once we got into the flow of the game I thought we controlled the match. We had some really nice plays. … I thought we had some really nice passing patterns, so it’s nice to see them put in what we worked on all week in practice.”

Coming into the game, NU trailed Penn State in the Big Ten standings because the Nittany Lions had topped the Cats back in October. A loss to Michigan on Friday afternoon gave Penn State a 5-1 conference record to tie NU’s.

“I think we’ve really hit our stride at the right time,” Parsley said. “We kind of gradually made our way to where we’re at now. … We’re in a really great position moving forward.”

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