Field Hockey: Northwestern’s defense leads the team into the Big Ten Tournament

Mike Marut, Reporter

On Thursday, the round two bell will ring.

Northwestern will begin the Big Ten Tournament as the No. 2 seed against Ohio State, squaring off against the Buckeyes for the second time in six days.

The first time around, the Wildcats walloped their conference foes 5-0 — their seventh shutout of the season. The defensive play was exemplary, with sophomore defender Lisa McCarthy stopping any opposing momentum before it even started. Defensive player of the week, junior goalkeeper Maddy Carpenter, knew she could not have received the accolade without help from her teammates.

“I couldn’t do it without a good defense,” Carpenter said. “They only had four shots (on goal). It was a pretty easy time for me because Lisa probably stopped three breakaways and had really good traps around the 25 and 30, so her poise has really helped me out all season.”

Carpenter ranks fifth in the nation in goals against average with only 1.04 goals allowed per game. With 55 saves on the season and 2.89 saves per match, she has a relatively easy time in the net. The defense has only let opponents shoot 149 times and a mere 20 of those have actually gotten by Carpenter.

“(We limit) their opportunities to take shots on Maddy, and when they do have an amazing shot, Maddy can make an equally amazing save,” McCarthy said. “That’s our role just limiting what they can do on attack and not generate anything.”

NU works well together as a unit.

“The defense has been really consistent all year long,” coach Tracey Fuchs said. “It starts with the forwards and there is always a place for one good defender up front. One of our strengths is that everybody works really hard on both sides of the ball whether it’s the forwards or the middies, the backs or Maddy, everybody is working together so we’re going to need that same effort against Ohio State (on) Thursday.”

NU also understands it cannot overlook Ohio State despite its winless conference record. Last season, the Cats took down the Hoosiers 4-0 midseason but were then upset in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament and lost 4-0 to the same team. The “nightmares” of that experience will help motivate the team to victory, according to McCarthy and Carpenter.

“We can’t let down,” Carpenter said. “We kind of did that against Indiana last year, and we definitely learned our lesson. … If we can come out with the same amount of energy and poise that we had, it should be a similar result. This will hopefully be my first time making it past the first round. … It’s terrible going home the first day and I want to stay until Sunday.”

Another variable added to the game is the return of Arielle Cowie, who received a red card against Indiana and could not play against NU last week. The return of Cowie means another offensive threat against the Cats that they have to prepare for.

“It’s hard to play the same team back to back,” Fuchs said after the victory over Ohio State last week. “They’ll be stronger because they’ll have their player back, but we’re excited, and the good thing about this team this year is that we worry about what we need to do.”

Despite the overwhelming win against the Buckeyes, the Cats are not looking back but forward.

“We just try to take every game like it’s the same,” senior forward Nikki Parsley said after defeating the Buckeyes. “Once Monday (hit) it’s like we never really won. Move forward and play the next game because it really has no bearing on the next one. We’ll have to beat them again.”

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