Field Hockey: Michigan topples scuffling Northwestern in overtime, sending Wildcats to third straight conference loss


Daily file photo by Jacob Morgan

Isabel Flens winds up for a pass. The senior forward scored Northwestern’s two goals in Friday’s 3-2 loss to No. 12 Michigan.

Cole Paxton, Assistant Sports Editor

Field Hockey

Northwestern seniors celebrated home wins 24 times over four years, but their final game in Evanston was no cause for celebration.

The No. 10 Wildcats (11-6, 4-3 Big Ten) couldn’t close their Lakeside Field schedule on a high note, falling 3-2 in overtime Friday to No. 12 Michigan (10-6, 5-3) in what was NU’s fourth consecutive loss. The game was the Cats’ second straight overtime home defeat after Iowa pulled out a 2-1 extra-session victory last Friday.

“They played a bit stronger in the first half, had more opportunities, and we battled hard,” Coach Tracey Fuchs said. “We had our chances in overtime (and) just didn’t convert.”

In some ways, the defeat resembled NU’s other recent losses. The Cats had their fair share of opportunities, and though they scored multiple goals for the first time in three weeks, the offense failed to capitalize on enough chances. Defensively, NU allowed multiple goals for the eighth straight game.

Though the Cats were unlucky in recent games and may have been the better team on some occasions, the Wolverines were stronger overall Friday. Michigan earned a whopping 12 penalty corners, the most of any NU opponent all season and more than the Cats’ last four opponents combined. All three of the Wolverines’ goals came from corner sequences.

NU needed a late goal, somewhat against the run of play, to even send the game to overtime. Though Fuchs was impressed by the Cats’ resilience, the final result tempered her response.

“We battled back,” the coach said. “But it just sucks to lose.”

Unfortunately, NU wasted strong performances from a pair of seniors taking to the Lakeside Field turf for the final time. Forward Isabel Flens was the brightest offensive star on the day, scoring both of the Cats’ goals. She deflected a shot from a corner to give NU a first-half lead, then converted on a distance effort from another corner to level the score at two with under six minutes to play in regulation.

Goaltender Lindsay von der Luft, meanwhile, made eight saves, including several acrobatic, sprawling efforts to cover her goal. Two of her saves came in the 6-on-6 overtime period that allowed for more open spaces and a higher likelihood of scoring.

Ultimately, however, Michigan’s 12 corners proved to be too much.

“They were always changing them up so we didn’t know what to expect,” junior back Sophia Miller said. “They just executed really well.”

The Cats eventually ended their losing streak with an 8-0 win at Central Michigan (1-15) on Sunday. The Chippewas have lost 12 straight games and were outscored 21-0 in games against Iowa and Michigan. As a nonconference game, the victory will not help NU in the Big Ten standings.

After late-September wins over Penn State and Maryland, both of whom were ranked in the top-6 in the country, the Cats were the clear frontrunners for the conference regular season title. But three straight Big Ten losses have dropped NU to fourth in the standings with just one league game remaining.

The Cats may need to make a deep run in the Big Ten Tournament to earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament. Despite another disheartening loss Friday, Flens tried to remain optimistic about what the season had left in store.

“It hurts, but we’ve got a lot more games to come this season,” she said. “This is not our last game … so we’re just going to move forward from this.”

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