Field hockey: Wildcats beat Ohio State to preserve first-place tie

Claire Hansen, Reporter

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Warm temperatures, sunny skies and full stands provided the perfect setting as No. 9 Northwestern (12-5, 6-1 Big Ten) handily defeated Big Ten opponent Ohio State (6-10, 1-6) 4-1 at Lakeside Field on Saturday afternoon.

With only one conference game left in the season, NU is tied with Maryland for first place in the Big Ten.

“We are really starting to put some goals away and capitalizing on our circle penetration, so overall I’m happy,” coach Tracey Fuchs said.

“Anytime you vie for a Big Ten championship in a conference like this is very rewarding.”

The Wildcats started putting the goals away early, capitalizing on a penalty corner just 2:25 into the first half. Sophomore Dominique Masters rocketed a shot past the Buckeyes keeper to give the Wildcats an early lead. Juniors Lisa McCarthy and Charlotte Martin assisted the play.

NU scored again just 12 minutes later when redshirt sophomore Ashley Bernardi put one home after a rebounded save at 14:22. Converting on rebounds and corners have been points of emphasis for the team.

“We’ve definitely been practicing our rebounds and tipping all season,” junior Caroline Troncelliti said.

Although the Cats maintained their 2-goal lead into the half, they only narrowly led the Buckeyes 8-6 in shots and 3-2 in earned penalty corners. The Buckeyes managed to get themselves back in the game early in the second half when Maddy Humphrey tipped in a feed to make the game 2-1 1:39 into the second period.

That was the last goal the Buckeyes would score. The Cats regained their 2-goal lead at 46:07 when freshman Sophia Miller flicked a rebounded save into the upper right 90. Less than 10 minutes later, sophomore Juliet Beatty tipped a feed from McCarthy to notch the score at 4-1. The Cats then carried the lead until the final buzzer.

Although NU was able to convert on both corners and rebounds, its offensive poise was clearly on display during transition. Throughout the game, the Cats were able to swiftly move the ball out of the backfield and up the field.

“We’ve been working so much on movement off ball because it really opens up the field,” McCarthy said. “Defenders are often marking our forwards so if they’re moving, it opens up space, and we can pop the ball into that space.”

Troncelliti agreed.

“The movement up front worked really well today,” she said.

Although the Buckeyes penetrated into the circle several times during the match, the NU defense limited Ohio State to five shots on goal.

“I think we have a really good mentality of tackling back, so it’s not just the defenders who are making those tackles. We have forwards who are stopping it on the line,” McCarthy said. “And we have a superb goalkeeper.”

Senior goalkeeper Maddy Carpenter made three key saves in the matchup, even leaving the box to take on a lone, dangerous attacker in the first half. It was Carpenter’s 50th career win.

The Cats next play Friday when they will travel to face Big Ten opponent Penn State in hopes of maintaining that first-place tie or seizing the top spot for themselves.

“There’s a lot at stake, so I think we are going to work really hard in practice this week.” Troncelliti said. “It’s up to us.”

McCarthy echoed her teammate.

“We’ve got the players, we’ve got the talent,” she said. “It’s all in the head now.”

Twitter: @clairechansen