Field Hockey: Wildcats hold off Hawkeyes, advance to Big Ten Tournament semifinals
November 3, 2016
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COLLEGE PARK, Maryland — Northwestern traveled 700 miles to avenge its overtime loss to Iowa, making sure to bury the Hawkeyes early.
The fourth-seeded Wildcats (12-7, 5-3 Big Ten) left no doubt Thursday in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, defeating fifth-seed Iowa (12-4, 4-4) 3-1. NU last played the Hawkeyes in October, losing 2-1 in overtime.
But with the team’s NCAA Tournament hopes possibly on the line, the Cats took no time to squash any chance of a Hawkeye comeback.
NU’s senior midfielder and second-team All-Big Ten selection Dominique Masters found the back of the net first for the Cats, scoring on a rebound after a penalty corner and giving NU the lead just 10 minutes into the game.
Senior forward Isabel Flens, who was named to the All-Big Ten first-team, followed Masters with another goal just two minutes later. Flens capitalized on a penalty shot, scoring her team-leading 16th goal of the season, after freshman midfielder Saar de Breij was taken out by Iowa’s goalie.
Masters said scoring early gave the team a sense of confidence that it didn’t always have during the regular season.
“We had a bit of a lull at some points in the season where we let teams back in,” Masters said. “It’s great to have that kind of two-goal lead.”
When NU last played the Hawkeyes, the Cats carried a 1-0 lead into the second half, only to concede three minutes into the second half. Iowa prevailed in overtime, upsetting then-No. 9 NU.
Even going into the half up 2-0, the Cats couldn’t get complacent. But NU let up.
Hawkeyes midfielder Sophie Plasteras finally got the better of Cats senior goalkeeper Lindsay von der Luft, capitalizing on the second of back-to-back penalty corners early in the second half. Fuchs said the goal made her a little uneasy, but the team was able to contain Iowa’s goal-scorers, especially senior forward Natalie Cafone.
“I didn’t like the way we sat back a little bit in the second half,” Fuchs said. “But we got to the TV timeout and we started to push a little more.”
NU junior back and first-team All-Big Ten selection Sophia Miller said the team tried not to let the conceded goal unnerve the defense.
“Just staying strong, staying composed, especially after they scored in the second half was important,” Miller said. “We dropped a few more players back, and keeping them to the outsides was really important.”
Ultimately, the Cats held on for the win, as with just under four minutes left in the game, Masters answered with her second goal of the game, crushing Iowa’s hope of another overtime comeback.
NU will advance to the semifinals of the tournament, going up against No. 1-seed Maryland. The teams last played in September, when the Cats stunned the then-No. 6 Terrapins 3-2.
Friday’s game will have even higher stakes, though, as the winner advancing to the Big Ten Tournament finals on Sunday
“This win puts us in (the NCAA Tournament) if there’s no upsets in any of the tournaments, and unfortunately that happens,” Fuchs said. “We’re looking forward to playing No. 3 in the country Maryland tomorrow, but this was a hard fought game, and Iowa is a damn good team, and it took us 70 minutes to win that game.”