Field Hockey: Northwestern’s season ends with NCAA quarterfinals loss to Michigan


Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Puck Pentenga directs traffic. The junior midfielder and the Wildcats saw their season end with a 3-0 loss to Michigan in the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals on Sunday.

Brett Haensel, Reporter

Field Hockey

Northwestern was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament Sunday with a 3-0 loss to No. 3 Michigan in the quarterfinals.

The No. 10 Wildcats (15-7, 6-2 Big Ten) began the weekend with a 3-2 overtime win against No. 8 Louisville (14-8) before falling to the Wolverines, who improved their win streak to 18 games and ended NU’s season.

“I’m disappointed; you never want to lose as a coach or a competitor,” coach Tracey Fuchs said. “But this team had an amazing season. … We just couldn’t get the job done today.”

On Saturday, the Cats dominated the Cardinals on offense and showed why they were one of just eight at-large teams selected to compete in the tournament. NU outshot Louisville by 14, and though the Cats still found themselves tied at the end of regulation, they were eventually rewarded for their offensive persistence.

NU’s overtime goal came just over two minutes into the period when junior midfielder Puck Pentenga found the back of the net off a penalty corner.

“We dominated most of the game against Louisville,” Pentenga said. “We got a lot of shots off and a bunch of corners, and in overtime we just wanted to get it in, so we didn’t have to play for too long.”

Both the Cats and Michigan entered the Sunday showdown with tired legs, as the Wolverines also needed overtime to beat No. 13 Syracuse (12-7) the day before. But NU couldn’t reprise its attacking prowess from the previous day, failing to score against the Wolverines for the third time this season.

The Cats attempted just five shots on goal, and though they conceded just as few to their opponents, Michigan converted on three to secure its spot in the semifinals and its remarkable 18th consecutive victory.

NU’s offense suffered a setback prior to the quarterfinals. Junior forward Pascale Massey was injured in the Louisville game, and the Cats struggled without their leading scorer.

“(Massey) was our biggest contributor up-front this season, so it was a big loss,” Fuchs said. “Other players really stepped up and tried to fill her shoes, but you can’t fill the shoes of a (14-goal scorer).”

The quarterfinal defeat marks the end of standout senior defender Sophia Miller’s career. A unanimous first team All-Big Ten selection, Miller led a defense that gave up fewer than two goals per game this season.

Miller went 57-30 in her NU career, and the 2017 season marked her first NCAA Tournament appearance since her freshman year.

“I love this team to death,” Miller said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better support system or coaching staff. It’s been delightful to have been with them the past four years.”

Though the Cats will certainly miss their star defender next season, the team will return almost their entire starting lineup. Aside from Miller, only midfielder Elena Curley will graduate in the offseason.

Meanwhile, NU will look to build on a campaign in which it took down eight ranked opponents and went undefeated at home.

“I’m just proud of all of (the team),” Fuchs said. “They worked incredibly hard, and it’s something to really build on for the upcoming year.”

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