Field Hockey: Wildcats march into Big Ten postseason

Mike Marut, Reporter

Field Hockey

On Thursday, third seed Northwestern (13-6, 6-2 Big Ten) looks to advance beyond the first round of the Big Ten Tournament for the first time since 1996.

The first opponent will be No. 6 seed Iowa (11-6, 4-4).

Under coach Tracey Fuchs’ tutelage, the Cats have shown the collegiate field hockey world they are here to play and can compete with the best, despite their recent lackluster postseason performances. The game against Iowa will arguably be more difficult than their two past Big Ten Tournament openers against Indiana in 2012 and Ohio State in 2013.

“It’s actually better,” Fuchs said. “On paper, Iowa is a much better opponent (than Ohio State or Indiana), and I think we play better when we know the opponent is really good. We’ve been to Michigan twice; this will be our third time. We are just looking forward to going out and playing our hardest and have the better team win.”

When playing Iowa early October, the Cats pounced on the Hawkeyes early. NU opened the match with 2 goals within the first seven-and-a-half minutes. When Iowa got on the board five minutes later, the two defenses battened down the hatches and no goals were allowed until deep into the second half. Sophomore Dominique Masters scored the victory-solidifying goal at the 64-minute mark and recorded an assist in that game.

“It’s definitely going to be the toughest game we’ve played,” Masters said. “I mean, yes, we beat them, and in my opinion, I think it was our best game of the season, but (this time) it’s a completely different game, a completely different field. We need to just go in there and finish them off, basically, and play our own game.”

Against the Hoosiers and Buckeyes, the Cats struggled in postseason play after dominating the opponent in the regular season. In 2012 against Indiana, NU shut out the Hoosiers 4-0. When round one of the Big Ten Tournament came around, Indiana knocked out NU 4-0. In 2013 against Ohio State, NU shut out the Buckeyes 5-0, then in the first round the Cats fell 3-2.

Michigan hosts the tournament this year on its brand new turf. Fortunately for NU, the Cats have more experience than other conference teams on the new field. Having played both the Wolverines and the Stanford Cardinals on the field, as well as a total of four practices before those games, the Cats have an advantage over most Big Ten teams.

“It’s definitely going to help,” sophomore Isabel Flens said. “It’s a very bouncy field, and we’ve played on other new turfs, so we have some experience already. We kind of know what to expect and can change our game to not play any bouncy balls, keep the ball on the ground and focus on receiving instead of trying to do everything at once.”

A rivalry has grown out of NU’s matchups against Iowa. The last time the Cats advanced past the first round, in 1996, they were knocked out by the Hawkeyes.

“It should be another good game,” senior Maddy Carpenter said. “Every Big Ten game is a big one. The Tournament is always super exciting.”

Here, Carpenter paused.

“And, ah, we hate Iowa.”

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