Field Hockey: As Northwestern rolls along, offensive firepower leads the way


Daily file photo by Jacob Morgan

Elena Curley runs with the ball. The junior midfielder is one of seven Northwestern players with four or more goals so far this season.

Cole Paxton, Assistant Sports Editor

Field Hockey

The statistics are gaudy — fourth nationally in scoring margin, first in the Big Ten in assists — and tell a clear story: Northwestern’s offense is rolling.

The No. 6 Wildcats (10-2, 4-0 Big Ten) have put together an eight-game winning streak thanks primarily to a well-oiled and diversified attack — one NU says it expects to lead to road wins Friday against Indiana (6-6, 1-2) and Sunday against No. 8 Louisville (10-2).

“The ball is finding its way into the back of the net,” coach Tracey Fuchs said. “We just have people in the right places … Everybody’s doing the simple things, and it’s paying off for us.”

The Cats’ two top scorers from last year, Dominique Masters and Isabel Flens, are both back this season. Though the senior midfielders again top the scoring charts for NU, the Cats have relied on goals from a variety of players, both experienced and youthful.

Fifteen NU players have recorded at least one goal or assist, including all 10 regular outfield starters, and seven players have at least four goals. A different Cats player has been named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week each of the last three weeks.

“We are a team that works together. Everyone on our team can score on the offensive end,” said junior forward Pascale Massey, who received the conference award Sep. 27. “We’re all trying to focus on the shooting alley and getting shots off.”

NU has also taken outstanding advantage of its scoring opportunities. Against Rutgers last Friday, the Cats scored five goals on six shots on frame, and NU took down then-No. 4 Penn State on Sep. 23 despite allowing more than twice as many penalty corners as it earned.

The Cats have been particularly ruthless on corners. After struggling mightily to convert corners in close losses last season, NU’s revamped unit, led by the experienced seniors Flens and Masters, has capitalized regularly on its opportunities.

“Our corner execution is as good as it’s ever been,” Fuchs said. “Izzy and Dom have been our corner shooters for three years. We’ve been really consistent … and they’re putting the ball on the cage.”

In their extended winning streak, the Cats have been remarkably consistent offensively. NU has scored at least three goals in every game of the stretch and tallied five or more scores in six of the eight games.

In Flens’ eyes, the Cats’ consistent success has buoyed the whole team.

“This year we’ve been doing a really good job, and the coaches as well, of getting a lot of people in and getting them minutes, getting them confidence,” said Flens, the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week this week. “I hope that people are able to see what’s working this year, playing together as a team.”

This weekend’s opponents will provide NU with tricky tests. The Cats lost at unranked Indiana last year, and Louisville lost close, competitive games to both No. 2 Duke and No. 4 Syracuse earlier this season.

Nonetheless, Massey is unconcerned. She expects NU, fourth nationally in goals per game, to roll on, just as it has for the past several weeks.

“We’ve shown recently that we can keep going. We’re just taking it one game at a time,” Massey said. “We’re starting on our front foot, which is really important to us. It’s just very exciting to see where the season’s going to go.”

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