Field hockey: Wildcats prepare for showdown with 2nd-ranked Terrapins

Mike Marut, Reporter

On Saturday, No. 15 Northwestern (4-3) opens its Big Ten season against field hockey powerhouse and conference newcomer, No. 2 Maryland (5-1).

The Terrapins enter the Big Ten on a hot streak of 14 straight wins against Big Ten teams (including Rutgers). Maryland has not lost to a Big Ten team since November 2007. The Wildcats traditionally fall short of winning against them, but coach Tracey Fuchs hopes to welcome the Terrapins in “Wildcat fashion.”

“Maryland is consistently, over the last decade, one of the best teams the NCAA has seen,” Fuchs said. “(The game will) be a good barometer to see where we stand, but we believe we can beat anybody in the country. We are going to treat it like any other game and come out and worry about us and what we need to do.”

NU is also consistently one of the best field hockey teams in the country. After bringing Fuchs to the program, the Cats are 66-35 and won the Big Ten regular season title last year with the first all-Fuchs-recruited team. The second season of players all brought in by Fuchs suggests an even more powerful force to be reckoned with.

“We finally have a team where we can really, consistently play the best teams in the country,” Fuchs said. “We really started that last year with playing Duke who was in the final game (of the NCAA tournament).”

This team, however, has already lost some key cogs. Last year’s seniors Tara Puffenberger and Nikki Parsley helped lead NU to a perfect home record last season. Freshman Pascale Massey sustained a lower leg injury against Dartmouth and will miss the remainder of the season. Massey was touted as one of the top prospects coming into the 2014 season and potentially as a top goal-scorer for the Cats as well, Fuchs said.

Despite the early challenges, Fuchs has confidence in her team.

“We have a solid core of juniors who are back led by juniors Lisa McCarthy, Charlotte Martin and Lena Phillips,” Fuchs said. “When you lose that (leadership), everybody else steps up. We might not have one superstar, but we have a bunch of stars and we are so much more balanced. We don’t have to depend on one or two people, we have seven or eight that we can look to on any given day.”

McCarthy and Martin lead the defense and have only allowed 73 shots in the season’s first seven games, compared to NU’s 97 shots taken so far. On the offensive end, sophomores Isabel Flens and Dominique Masters lead the team in shots. Flens has notched the most goals with six, while Masters has scored four this season.

The Cats have cranked out four wins in their seven games this season, while their three losses have all been by one goal. However, against the ranked teams of James Madison, Wake Forest, Louisville and Connecticut, NU has only won against James Madison.

“We’ve started off really well and had some really good games,” Flens said. “We scored nine goals against Dartmouth which was really good. We struggled to get the ball in last week but did pretty well against (James Madison) and scored a goal in overtime when we really needed it.”

Defensively, McCarthy speaks highly of her squad despite not having a lot of practice since September 11th.

“It’s lovely to have depth at defense, we’ve got players rotating through and playing different positions which is really good for our team,” McCarthy said. “Also we get to have more practice time. Since we’ve been on the road a lot recently, we haven’t had time to iron out some things but this week we’ll get to iron out some of the issues.”

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