Field Hockey: No. 7 Northwestern takes down Michigan in the shootout


Daily file photo by Alison Albelda

Mackenzie Keegan hits the ball. The junior midfielder has played in every game this season, starting three times.

Greg Svirnovskiy, Assistant Sports Editor

Picture David and Goliath, a long-awaited matchup between two of field hockey’s best teams. In some respects, Northwestern — a team that entered the day on a seven game winning streak — walked in as the underdog.

Heading into Sunday’s game, the Cats (10-2, 2-0 Big Ten) had lost seven straight against Michigan,(6-3, 1-1) falling to the Wolverines five times in the last two seasons alone.

No current player on NU had ever beaten Michigan. But with top-five NCAA scoring threats Bente Baekers and Kirsten Mansfield, the Cats were Michaelangelo’s David, standing strong and tall in the face of fate.


However, Michigan was also battle-tested. The Wolverines entered play Sunday on a five game winning streak, having lost only once in Big Ten play in the last two seasons, ending NU’s season last year in the first round of the Big Ten tournament.


The result — an epic matchup that lived up to the hype.

It featured plenty of tackles shouts for green cards, incredible saves, and in the end, a tightly contested 1-0 victory for the Cats.

“We knew if we came in and we played our best that we would have a shot to beat them,” coach Tracey Fuchs said. “I’m just so happy for our seniors who have put in a lot of work in that purple and black uniform and finally they got the victory they deserved.”

NU owned the game’s first two quarters, outshooting Michigan 4-1 and earning two corners in the process. From there, they Cats waited patiently, taking care of the opposition’s offensive threats and making it through a back and forth overtime period in which junior goalkeeper Florien Marcusson made three saves.

With no scoring in regulation and overtime, the game turned to penalty shots. After one shooter on each side missed a penalty in the first sequence of the shoot out, the contest moved to a sudden death format, where senior midfielder’s Saar De Breij’s second goal of the shoot out proved to be the eventual difference maker.

De Breij, whose has already matched her previous season’s goal total of four in six less games, said she was anxious in the lead up to her shot.

“I just got really nervous so I tried to take a couple deep breaths,” De Breij said. “And then I’m only gonna focus on the goalie and the ball and I stick to my plan. I have a plan in my head of what I’m gonna do. And I just go in there and try to play the ball out. She stick hacked me once and I just stayed strong on the ball and curled around her.”

With the teams seemingly scoring at a back and forth pace, the Cats finally topped Michigan in the sixth round of the shoot out, when Kathryn Peterson’s goal was overturned after the ball was found to have bounced off of her shin on its way into the net.

“We practice them a lot,” Fuchs said. “It’s really important to actually ask if they want to take one. So we did that and we had five people sit on the bench faster than I can ask. It’s a pressure situation. It’s fun. Pressure is a privilege and they really did a great job.”

The win was the Cats’ eighth straight, a perfect intensity builder in the leadup to next Thursday’s matchup against defending NCAA finalists Maryland, who have lost only once all season.

“Everybody has to play together for us to win,” Fuchs said. “Everybody is playing their role, whether they’re on the bench, whether they’re on the field, whether they’re coming off the bench. When you have that kind of culture and that kind of chemistry, you can do great things.”

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