Field Hockey: Wildcats face pair of challenging home tests

Dominique+Masters+goes+for+the+ball.+The+senior+midfielder+is+tied+for+the+team+lead+in+goals+ahead+of+Northwestern%E2%80%99s+weekend+games+against+Penn+State+and+Maryland.
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Field Hockey: Wildcats face pair of challenging home tests

Dominique Masters goes for the ball. The senior midfielder is tied for the team lead in goals ahead of Northwestern’s weekend games against Penn State and Maryland.

Dominique Masters goes for the ball. The senior midfielder is tied for the team lead in goals ahead of Northwestern’s weekend games against Penn State and Maryland.

Daily file photo by Daniel Tian

Dominique Masters goes for the ball. The senior midfielder is tied for the team lead in goals ahead of Northwestern’s weekend games against Penn State and Maryland.

Daily file photo by Daniel Tian

Daily file photo by Daniel Tian

Dominique Masters goes for the ball. The senior midfielder is tied for the team lead in goals ahead of Northwestern’s weekend games against Penn State and Maryland.

Cole Paxton, Assistant Sports Editor

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Field Hockey


Despite its lofty No. 11 ranking, Northwestern might be the underdog in both its games this weekend.

The Wildcats (6-2, 1-0 Big Ten) will host No. 4 Penn State (8-0, 1-0) on Friday and No. 6 Maryland (6-2, 1-0) on Sunday in their most difficult weekend of the conference season.

“We know either of those games can go either way,” coach Tracey Fuchs said. “We’re hoping that we put our chances away like we have (been) and that we really take care of the ball.”

The Cats have started their season well, beating then-No. 8 Boston College on a neutral field and taking then-No. 4 Duke to overtime. NU opened its conference campaign on a high note last week with a resounding 5-1 road win at Ohio State.

But the hyper-competitive Big Ten presents its own challenges. Five of the conference’s nine teams are ranked, including three — Penn State, Maryland and No. 8 Michigan — that are all in the top 10. The Nittany Lions are one of just five remaining unbeaten teams in the country.

Despite the challenge, senior midfielder Isabel Flens said the Cats are looking forward to the test.

“At the beginning it might be, ‘Oh wow, that’s going to be tough,’ but it’s going to be very exciting,” Flens said. “It’s great to be home again. We love playing at home.”

NU’s defense will likely need to continue its recent run of good form. The Cats have allowed just two goals over their last four games and have conceded more than one goal in only one game this season.

Penn State, meanwhile, has scored at least three goals in every game, and tallied six or more goals in five of nine contests. The Terrapins offensive numbers have been similarly impressive, including an 11-goal weekend over two games and a 4-1 drubbing of Indiana last Saturday.

“They are very dynamic up front, so a lot of communication is going to be key to defending them,” junior back Sophia Miller said of the Nittany Lions and Terrapins. “Just getting in the right spots, being structurally organized, ready to defend them as they’re coming down the field is going to be really important.”

Although NU has not put up the big offensive numbers its opponents have, the Cats have been taking advantage of their opportunities. After squandering several chances in close losses last season, the Cats have executed far better on penalty corners this year and are getting goals from several players.

The Cats could benefit from home-field advantage in more ways than one. Not only will the Nittany Lions and Terrapins both have to travel — Maryland will arrive in Evanston after a Friday game at No. 15 Iowa — they will also have to adjust to the turf at Lakeside Field.

Conditions and statistics aside, NU expects two exciting, hard-fought games.

“Our whole goal this year is to just take one game as it comes,” Fuchs said. “It’d be great if we came out and played our best hockey on Friday.”

Email: colepaxton2019@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @ckpaxton

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