Field Hockey: Wildcats top Big Ten standings after win over Hawkeyes

Mike Marut and Claire Hansen

No. 11 Northwestern (9-3, 4-0 Big Ten) earned its sixth straight win on Sunday, routing No. 7 Iowa (8-3, 2-1 Big Ten) to take control of the Big Ten.

Back-to-back goals by juniors Lisa McCarthy and Caroline Troncelliti within the first eight minutes of play gave the Wildcats an early lead as they went on to beat the Hawkeyes 3-1 in Iowa City, Iowa. NU now sits alone atop the Big Ten.

“In the end, we just played really well,” coach Tracey Fuchs said. “Our early goals really set the tone. We were moving the ball and passing well. Nobody had a bad game.”

Both teams entered the game undefeated in the Big Ten, the only two teams in the conference standing unbeaten. The Cats’ offense proved too much for the Hawkeyes, remaining tenacious throughout the matchup and earning 10 corners to the Hawkeyes’ three. Sophomore Dominique Masters found McCarthy on the third corner of the game, and the junior netted her third goal of the season to give the Cats a 1-0 lead at 5:17. Troncelliti quickly followed suit, slipping one past Iowa goalkeeper Alexandra Pecora off a pass from sophomore Isabel Flens.

“After the first goal, the second one just kind of came,” said Fuchs. “We had a ton of corners and a ton of shots. It was great when we put one home late in the game to finish.”

Hawkeye forward and Big Ten leading scorer Natalie Cafone responded at 12:59, tallying a goal for Iowa off a pass from Stephanie Norlander. NU’s senior goalkeeper Maddy Carpenter withstood an aggressive offensive surge after halftime, keeping the score notched at 2-1 until deep into the second half. With just 5:29 remaining, Masters scored off of an assist from junior Kelley Stump to give the Wildcats a decisive two goal lead.

“I was in the right place at the right time,” Masters said. “The goalie had committed to Kelley and I was able to just put it home.”

NU’s offensive squeezed the Hawkeye defense for the entirety of the match, earning 10 corners and taking 15 shots over the course of the two periods.

“From the minute the refs blew the whistle we were putting pressure on them,” Masters said. “It was nice to have that authority over them.”

The Cats’ defensive focus going into the game was limiting the dominance of Cafone. Freshman Sophia Miller and junior Kelsey Gradwohl effectively shut Cafone down. With only one shot all game, she was unable to produce offensively for the Hawkeyes. Coming into the game, Cafone led Iowa in every attack statistic.

“She was a really quick player but we managed to shut her down on the sideline,” said Miller. “We had really good communication and teamwork.”

Fuchs, who mentioned last week the Cats needed to always be aware of Cafone’s position, could not compliment her defense enough.

“We took care of her in the sense that we limited her touches,” Fuchs said. “If she made a move, Charlotte (Martin) stopped her like the vacuum she is.”

With this win, NU ranks No. 1 in the conference. Amid the exciting first non-overtime win over Iowa since 2011, the team maintains its long-term goal: winning the Big Ten title.

“It feels awesome (to be first),” Miller said. “It was a true test of where we are in the Big Ten, and where we’re going.”

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Twitter: @mikeonthemic93

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @claire_hansen