Field Hockey: Cats hit the road for a pair of pivotal Big Ten games

Senior midfielder Caroline Troncelliti handles the ball. The Cats dropped their first conference game of the season this year but look to make up for it with two road Big Ten contests this weekend.

Daily file photo by Sean Su

Senior midfielder Caroline Troncelliti handles the ball. The Cats dropped their first conference game of the season this year but look to make up for it with two road Big Ten contests this weekend.

Cole Paxton, Reporter

It is only one game into the conference schedule, but Northwestern finds itself in an unfamiliar position in the Big Ten standings: looking up at the rest of the league.

The defending conference champion, No. 14 NU (7-3, 0-1 Big Ten), faces a pivotal early season weekend after last Friday’s 3-2 loss at 10th-ranked Maryland (6-3, 1-0 Big Ten) in the Big Ten opener for both teams.

“We were definitely a bit defeated by that,” junior midfielder Dominique Masters said. “We were expecting to win.”

Fresh off of the Maryland defeat, however, the Wildcats rebounded with a 4-0 road shutout of Temple on Sunday, a victory coach Tracey Fuchs characterized as “really important.” Senior back Lisa McCarthy called it “really really important.”

“The character of a team is how they come back, and we came back really, really strong on Sunday,” Fuchs added.

To right the ship in league play, NU will have to continue to get the job done on the road. The Cats will meet Rutgers (5-2, 0-1 Big Ten) Friday in Piscataway, New Jersey, then travel to Indiana for a Sunday matchup with the Hoosiers (3-4).

On paper, NU would appear to be favored in both games. Although Rutgers has won three of its last four and scored at least three goals in every game this season, its two losses have come against ninth-ranked Virginia and No. 16 Iowa — the Scarlet Knights’ two ranked opponents to date this year.

Nonetheless, the Cats are preparing for a difficult test.

“Rutgers are playing really well right now,” McCarthy said. “It’s going to be a lot of work all over the field.”

The Hoosiers, meanwhile, enter Friday’s Big Ten opener against Iowa having won just once since Sept. 5: a 4-2 victory over Ball State last Friday. Like Rutgers, Indiana sports an 0-2 mark against ranked opponents. The Hoosiers suffered early-season road defeats at No. 12 Louisville and sixth-ranked Stanford.

However, a taxing travel schedule and new Indiana coaching staff will make Sunday’s contest far from a walkover for NU.

“The No. 1 thing is rest and sleep, making sure we’re fueling our (bodies),” Fuchs said. “We just need to make sure we take each game as it comes.”

Despite a rocky league opener and a pair of challenging matches this weekend, the Cats remain confident and have shown no signs of panic.

It appears the team is using the slip-up against Maryland as a teaching point, and not something to sulk over.

“We have to keep building each game,” Masters said. “We’re pleased with how we’ve been playing, but I think that we’re very hungry to score more goals.”

NU has played just one of eight Big Ten games and reached the midway point of the regular season last weekend, Masters noted.

“You’ve got to be sad for a little while, be kind of upset about it,” she said of the Maryland defeat. “But then you’ve got to pick yourself up because there’s so many more games we have left … the conference has only just begun.”

Correction: A previous version of the photo caption accompanying this story misstated the player in the photo. She is senior midfielder Caroline Troncelliti. The Daily regrets the error.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @ckpaxton

Comments