Field Hockey: No. 5 Northwestern prepares for a battle against No. 4 Maryland


Daily file photo by Alison Albelda

Lily Gandhi reaches for the ball. The senior midfielder has started every game this season.

Gabriela Carroll, Reporter

Field Hockey

Coming into Thursday’s matchup on an eight-game winning streak and a huge win against No. 9 Michigan under its belt, one would think the No. 5 Northwestern would have taken some time to relax and celebrate.

The Wildcats (10-2, 3-0 Big Ten) have had an extremely tough slate, with plenty of wins to be proud of aside from the Wolverines: No. 15 Ohio State, No. 16 Stanford, No. 20 Wake Forest, and No. 24 Michigan State. But the games keep getting tougher for the Cats.

This week they face No. 4 Maryland (9-1, 2-0 Big Ten), one of their toughest opponents yet.

“It’s tough to come back — we were on a real high after we beat Michigan. We hadn’t beaten them in four or five years,” coach Tracey Fuchs said. “The good thing is, we’re playing Maryland, who’s number four in the country. They’re an easy team to get up for and I think our players will be ready for (Thursday’s) match.”

NU has beaten the Terrapins in two of its last three regular-season meetings, but Maryland has been a force since it joined the Big Ten. The Terrapins were last year’s NCAA runner-up and Big Ten Champions, and the road to winning the conference this year almost certainly involves beating them.

Maryland is coming off a similarly impressive win streak of its own, and has only lost once all season to No. 2 Duke. To top it all off, the game will be the Cats’ first of the season that is televised. Despite all that added pressure, NU is staying focused in the leadup to this game.

“We’ve gained so much confidence by playing Michigan and all the other good teams,” redshirt freshman Bente Baekers said. “We’ve learned so much, we’ve practiced so much, (and) we know what we need to improve. We’re just focusing one game at a time. I don’t think our team does feel pressure at all.”

To beat the Terrapins, the Cats will have to play some of the best hockey they have played all season, but Baekers believes their mindset will be key to a victory.

Both Maryland and NU have very strong offenses, with goals per game averages of 3.40 and 3.17 respectively, but junior forward Lakin Barry said the entire team is important to the Cats offensive prowess.

“When you think of scoring, you think of forwards in the circle, but the ball has to get into the circle,” Barry said. “So just being strong on our outlets, and getting the midfield to get the ball moving forward… Everyone helps us get the ball in the circle, and we just finish it.”

Barry said the experience preparing for the Michigan game will also help them as they look forward to Maryland. Both Barry and Fuchs said they trust the team’s chemistry, which will help them in Thursday’s contest.

“Our team strength is our balance,” Fuchs said. “This year we’re really solid on every line. We’re really balanced and we play together.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @gablcarroll