Marut: Field Hockey is the next Northwestern dynasty


Mike Marut, Reporter

Field Hockey

After covering the Northwestern field hockey team for the past two seasons, I’ve come to a great realization: They’re an incredible team.

Maybe the Wildcats are not on every student’s mind, but they will be soon. Since the arrival of coach Tracey Fuchs, NU has been on the rise. Before Fuchs came, the team did not achieve a winning record since 1995. In Fuchs’s six years as leader of the Cats’ squad, the team’s record has steadily increased, starting at 12-8 in 2009 and rising to 16-6 this season.

NU received its highest accolade in program history this year: winning the Big Ten Tournament. The Big Ten is traditionally very strong in field hockey with teams such as Michigan, Iowa and Penn State acting as powerhouses. With the recent addition of Maryland to the conference, the Big Ten has become even more competitive and thus, winning the tournament provides proof of the Cats rise to dominance on the field hockey turf.

Many similarities exist between the field hockey team and the NU lacrosse team, headed by coach Kelly Amonte Hiller. Amonte Hiller brought the team out of anonymity. Before Amonte Hiller’s arrival, the lacrosse team had been demoted to club sport status from 1993 until 2002. When Amonte Hiller became the coach, the sport regained varsity status. After the 2002 and 2003 seasons, the Cats dominated the American Lacrosse Conference.

Like Fuchs and field hockey, under the direction of Amonte Hiller, the NU lacrosse team earned the NCAA record for most consecutive home victories (58) and holds program records in consecutive victories, conference victories and consecutive road victories. The team has recorded 34 NCAA tournament wins with only three losses, and Amonte Hiller’s winning percentage is second among all active women’s lacrosse coaches.

Looking at the record books, archives, coaches and statistics, the Cats’ field hockey team is going to do great things. With Fuchs’ history as a world-class coach and influential player, she is able to recruit players from around the globe. In fact, the field hockey team has a higher number of international athletes than any other NU varsity team.

Sometimes, a dynasty can start with only a couple of involved people. In the case of the Cats, those people were Fuchs and Chelsea Armstrong. Once Fuchs decided to become the coach for NU, Armstrong was entering her freshman year, and instead of joining the Wolverines, where Fuchs used to coach, she chose to follow Fuchs and play with the Cats. Armstrong holds many field hockey records within the NU program. She has scored the most goals in a single career, most goals in a single season and holds the second most assists in a single career.

Dynasties also have another characteristic: leadership. After Armstrong’s final season, the Cats had to find a way to replace her. What occurred was an influx of scoring from multiple players, although none were lone superstars. The players were unselfish with the ball, found openings and created scoring opportunities by moving the ball and getting the opponent off-balance.

The greatness of NU’s field hockey team will soon — if it is not already — be unquestioned. The team has come a long way under the guidance and leadership of Fuchs, similar to how Amonte Hiller leads her lacrosse team. For the field hockey team to come from not having a winning season from 1995 to 2009 to winning the 2014 Big Ten Tournament over a storied, decorated Maryland field hockey team says a lot about where this team is headed.

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