Field Hockey: Wildcats pull off pair of top-10 upsets


Jacob Morgan/The Daily Northwestern

Isabel Flens readies to pass the ball. The senior midfielder didn’t score over the weekend, but that didn’t stop Northwestern from beating No. 4 Penn State on Friday and No. 6 Maryland on Sunday.

Cole Paxton, Assistant Sports Editor

Field Hockey

Northwestern had an opportunity to make a statement this weekend. It made a huge one.

The No. 11 Wildcats (8-2, 3-0 Big Ten) took full advantage of their pivotal home showdowns, besting previously undefeated No. 4 Penn State (9-1, 2-1) 5-3 on Friday and toppling No. 6 Maryland (7-3, 2-1) 3-2 on Sunday.

“I couldn’t be more elated with how we came out and handled two of the best teams in the country,” coach Tracey Fuchs said. “We’re right up there with them.”

The wins put the Cats in command of the Big Ten as several games against unranked and struggling teams await. No. 8 Michigan, which lost 3-1 to Penn State on Sunday, is the only other top-10 team in the conference.

The Cats should also climb significantly in the national rankings. NU jumped four spots in the most recent poll last week and is now 3-1 against top-10 teams on the season. The Penn State win should carry extra weight with voters as the Nittany Lions received a handful of first place votes in last week’s poll.

As the accolades pile up, senior midfielder Dominique Masters said the challenges could intensify as well.

“We’re going to have a little bit of a target on our back because we’re 3-0 (in the Big Ten),” Masters said. “We just have to keep coming out and getting better.”

Despite the step up in opposition, the Cats’ offense formula was similar to their approach in recent games. NU took advantage of its scoring opportunities, and several different players found the back of the cage.

Junior forward Pascale Massey led the charge offensively with three goals, including the pivotal fourth goal Friday and the game-winner Sunday. Freshman midfielder Saar de Breij chipped in with a pair of goals for the Cats, who went a second straight weekend without a goal from senior midfielder Isabel Flens, a team captain and focal point of the offense.

“We’re so well-rounded that it’s contagious,” said Fuchs, who highlighted the importance of de Breij’s goals off the bench.

The Cats’ resilience was also on full display throughout the weekend. NU responded to a Penn State goal late in the first half Friday with three of its own in less than two minutes early in the second half, then regained control of the game after the Nittany Lions had cut the deficit to 3-2.

The Cats then bounced back strongly from the emotional win against Penn State, maintaining their intensity and avoiding a letdown against the Terrapins.

“We’ve been really working hard on starting on our front foot,” Massey, who opened the scoring in the second minute, said. “The goal just gets the momentum going, keeps us on top, and that’s where we like to be.”

NU was ecstatic with its weekend performances and powerful upsets. Nonetheless, the Cats don’t feel as though this is the pinnacle of the season.

“We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves,” Masters said. “We focused on Penn State on Friday and we focused on Maryland (on Sunday). Now we’ve got to have the confidence that we can go all the way.”

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