Field Hockey: Wildcats pick up crucial conference win against Rutgers


Brian Meng/The Daily Northwestern

Pascale Massey gets surrounded by four defenders. The junior forward scored a goal in Northwestern’s win over Rutgers on Friday.

Joseph Wilkinson, Assistant Sports Editor

Field Hockey

Northwestern took down its fourth top-25 opponent of the year Friday, staving off a comeback from No. 19 Rutgers to secure a 3-2 win.

The No. 10 Wildcats (8-4, 3-1 Big Ten) continued to excel on penalty corners, scoring two of their goals on such plays.

“It was a battle,” coach Tracey Fuchs said. “I didn’t think we played our best match today, but we kept battling. We were executing our corners, and so were they. It was basically the last person to get a corner wins.”

The victory moved NU into a second-place tie in the Big Ten and dropped the Scarlet Knights (7-4, 2-1) to third. The Cats dominated the first half, taking a 1-0 lead while attempting seven shots and allowing just one.

NU controlled the majority of possession in the half, with Rutgers stuck back in a defensive shell and failing to win a single corner before the break. The Cats eventually broke through on a corner, with junior midfielder Puck Pentenga scoring from the top of the circle.

“I aimed stick-side, just shooting to score,” Pentenga said. “It was just well-executed, a good insert and a good shot.”

That, however, was the only goal of the half, and it came on NU’s lone first-period corner. The Scarlet Knights held the Cats scoreless until the 51st minute, at which point the game broke open, with four total goals coming in the final 20 minutes.

A Rutgers turnover led to the second goal, when junior forward Pascale Massey slipped a pass across the crease to sophomore forward Saar de Breij, whose clean finish gave NU the 2-0 lead.

Fuchs said the pace of the game changed because the Scarlet Knights became more aggressive after giving up the second goal, allowing the game to have more flow.

“They really started to pick things up,” Fuchs said. “Their midfielders had good control of the ball, and I thought we did a good job of getting a few more corners and executing them.”

The Cats weren’t the only ones executing well on corners, with Rutgers going a perfect two-for-two on its attempts, led by sophomore defender Austyn Cuneo who assisted on both goals.

When senior midfielder Elena Curley scored to give NU a 3-1 lead with less than 10 minutes remaining, NU looked poised to cruise to victory, but the Scarlet Knights struck back less than two minutes later to set up a dramatic finish.

But NU held, staying undefeated at home, and now sits tied with Penn State for second in the conference.

“It was really a team effort,” Curley said. “We played all 70 minutes, and we had some great combination passes. I think if you looked at the percentages, I think we had the majority of the possession.”

Twitter: @joe_f_wilkinson