Field Hockey: Wildcats open Big Ten play with win in weekend sweep


Daily file photo by Sean Su

Isabel Flens takes on two defenders. While the senior midfielder didn’t score a goal on the weekend, Northwestern’s offense put up nine goals over two combined games against Ohio State and Kent State.

Cole Paxton, Assistant Sports Editor

Field Hockey

Once the lid was off for the Wildcats in their first Big Ten game, the goals came fast and furious.

No. 15 Northwestern (6-2, 1-0 Big Ten) scored three goals in less than four minutes, including two just 55 seconds apart, en route to a 5-1 win over Ohio State (3-5, 0-1) Friday in Columbus. The Cats then closed the weekend trip with a 4-1 non-conference win at Kent State (4-4) on Sunday.

“We didn’t start so strong, but as the game got on we really started to get into our groove,” coach Tracey Fuchs said of Friday’s win, adding that NU also came out sluggish early in Sunday’s game. “We’ve been scoring some goals on the offensive end so that was really helpful.”

The Cats’ offensive outburst came without an overwhelming number of opportunities, as NU earned just seven penalty corners Friday and six on Sunday. The Cats recorded 12 shots on goal Friday but took advantage of those opportunities against Kent State by scoring on four of eight attempts on frame.

NU’s corner execution was strong as well, as the Cats scored four goals directly from corners
on the weekend and added two more from corner sequences.

“Our corner execution is as good as it’s been since I’ve been at Northwestern,” Fuchs said. “It’s not necessarily that we’re scoring on every shot, but we’re really executing our corners.”

NU also relied on a balanced scoring attack as five different players scored against the Buckeyes. The Cats did their damage with no goals and just one assist from co-leading scorer Isabel Flens, a senior midfielder.

The more varied plan of attack has been in play for much of the early season — 11 NU players have tallied goals on the season, and four more have added assists. The variety comes after the Cats lost 10 seniors, including three all-region players, from last season’s team.

“It’s so important because there’s 22 of us and every single person counts,” senior midfielder Dominique Masters said of depth. “When we have lots of different players stepping up, that kind of spreads the confidence around on the team … It makes it more of a team effort rather than just focusing on any individual.”

Beyond the early-season firepower, NU has also been nearly impenetrable defensively. The Cats have recorded four shutouts through eight games and allowed more than one goal just twice.

Senior goaltender Lindsey von der Luft has been instrumental in that success — she saved 12 of 14 shots on goal over the weekend in Ohio. Also influential is the revamped backline fronted by junior Sophia Miller, who replaced the graduated senior Lisa McCarthy, a two-time second-team All-American, as the leader of that unit.

“Miller’s just a rock in the backfield as our center back,” freshman back Kirsten Mansfield said, adding that Miller and von der Luft were “a big help in the back.”

The Big Ten slate is a rigorous one for NU, which will host four ranked teams and three squads currently in the top 10. With that in mind, the Cats realized the importance of starting the league campaign with a resounding road victory.

“If you start off with a win it gives you the confidence for the upcoming games,” Masters said. “(It) also shows that we can keep ourselves at the top for the time being.”

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