Field Hockey: Wildcats lose to Michigan again, beat Michigan State


Daily file photo by Kate Salvidio

Puck Pentenga evades the defense. The senior midfielder scored twice over the weekend.

Joseph Wilkinson, Digital Projects Editor

Field Hockey

In 2015, Northwestern lost to Michigan 4-3 in double overtime. In 2016, it took only one overtime for the Wolverines to pull out the victory. And in 2017, the Wildcats went 0-3 against Michigan, losing in the regular season, Big Ten Tournament and NCAA Tournament.

No. 10 NU (8-5, 3-1 Big Ten) couldn’t get over the hump in 2018 either — at least not yet — after a 3-2 loss to the No. 6 Wolverines (8-4, 4-1) in Ann Arbor on Friday.

“It was a really even game, they just put their opportunities away,” coach Tracey Fuchs said. “It could’ve gone either way. Unfortunately, we were a little inconsistent.”

The Cats controlled possession for much of the first half, but it was the hosts who led 2-1 at halftime, with goals from Meg Dowthwaite and another from Fay Keijer. Keijer’s goal came less than two minutes after NU senior midfielder Puck Pentenga had leveled the score at one apiece.

A goal from Michigan’s Emma Way, who is in the top-10 in the country in goals per game, just five minutes after halftime gave the Wolverines a seemingly insurmountable edge. A late goal from junior forward Saar de Breij proved to be too little, too late.

“I actually think that because Michigan’s been difficult for us (to beat) the past few years, it’s kind of a heightened emotional game for us,” junior goalkeeper Annie Kalfas said. “We have a lot of fire when we go into those games. We can also tend to not focus on the things that we need to because we’re so excited to play and want to win so badly, so we just need to calm it down.”

The team was able to calm down Sunday, travelling to East Lansing and picking up a 2-0 win over Michigan State (4-9, 0-5).

If not clinical, it was a thoroughly dominant performance from NU, as the Cats put up 18 shots, 11 of them on goal, and allowed only three. Kalfas was not tested with a Spartan shot on goal once.

“Defensively we’re just a high communication team,” Kalfas said. “We focus a lot on letting everyone know what’s going on at all times so that we can make informed decisions. And getting our feet outside the circle before we tackle has been really key for us, too, so we can limit our opponents’ corners.”

Penalty corners have been crucial to the Cats’ offensive success as well, and both of their goals against Michigan State, one from junior defender Kirsten Mansfield and the other from Pentenga, came off corners.

They’ll need to continue to generate such quality chances if they hope to improve their ranking in the back half of the season as they push for an NCAA Tournament berth.

“We just have a lot of options off the penalty corner, and Puck has a great shot,” Mansfield said. “We’re ready for tips and rebounds, and we like to get as many as we can because we know some will get in the cage.”

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