Field Hockey: Northwestern opens season with 2-1 road trip


Daily file photo by Jacob Morgan

Elena Curley carries the ball. The senior midfielder and the Wildcats won twice in recent days, but took an ugly loss against Connecticut.

Cole Paxton, Web Editor

Field Hockey

Northwestern began a new-look era this weekend, splitting a pair of wildly divergent matches against highly touted foes, then cruising to a victory to close the first jolt of regular-season action on a high note.

Significant intrigue surrounded the No. 14 Wildcats entering the season, as NU returned a bevy of talent and virtually all of its supplementary and role players, but lost its two biggest stars to graduation and faced a gauntlet of a schedule from the first whistle.

The Cats found the cage just moments after that first whistle, as junior midfielder Eva van Agt scored a goal in just the second minute against Stanford on Saturday, the lone goal in NU’s 1-0 win over the No. 13 Cardinal. It was a strong effort from the Cats, who outshot their defeated foe, put 11 shots on goal and had a 10-4 edge in penalty corners.

NU relied mostly on its veterans in the attacking third of the field, with junior midfielder Puck Pentenga, van Agt and senior midfielder Elena Curley all recording multiple shots on goal. It was an inexperienced standout — sophomore goaltender Annie Kalfas — who impressed along the defensive line.

The shutout came in the first career start for Kalfas, the heir apparent to departed netminder Lindsay von der Luft. The departure of von der Luft was one of three key losses for the Cats, who can no longer rely on the attacking prowess of Isabel Flens and Dominique Masters.

NU could have used their help against Connecticut on Sunday, the second of two matches in Storrs, Connecticut. Though the No. 4 Huskies posed a tall task and a Cats upset would’ve been a major surprise, the 7-0 drubbing was NU’s worst defeat since 2008 — the year before coach Tracey Fuchs took over the program.

There were virtually no bright spots for the Cats, who mustered just three shots on goal and two corners. The Huskies, meanwhile, recorded goals from six different players and, in one stretch, tallied three times in just over six minutes.

NU rebounded quickly, however, with a decisive 4-0 victory at Providence on Tuesday. The Cats, just as they did against Stanford, struck quickly, with Pentenga opening her account for the season within the opening five minutes. That was enough for the win as Kalfas recorded another shutout, and NU added tallies from three other players.

Freshman midfielder Mackenzie Keegan gave the Cats a 2-0 halftime edge; sophomore back Kristen Mansfield and junior forward Pascale Massey, the leading candidate to fill the scoring void left by Flens and Masters, scored after the break.

That closed a generally fruitful opening burst for NU, which picked up a marquee win against Stanford and put several players in expanded roles. The Cats will face two more stern tests this coming weekend, with neutral site matchups against No. 12 Boston College and No. 2 Duke.

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