Field Hockey: No. 12 Northwestern hopes to bounce back in road contests against conference foes Penn State and No. 16 Rutgers


Daily file photo by Alison Albelda

Christen Conley battles with an opponent for the ball. The junior midfielder has played in four games this season.

Gabriela Carroll, Reporter

Field Hockey

Coming off two consecutive losses, No. 12 Northwestern (10-4, 3-1 Big Ten) is looking to bounce back. This weekend, they have two opportunities, with conference games against Penn State (2-8, 1-1 Big Ten) and No. 16 Rutgers (5-5, 0-2 Big Ten).

First up on Friday, the Nittany Lions are also looking to rebound after a loss to Louisville last weekend. The Wildcats are 4-0 in true road games this season, but to keep that streak alive, they will need to shut down Anna Simon, Penn State’s leading scorer, who played an active role in each of their victories. Despite being unranked, the Nittany Lions have a 7-3 record in their last ten games against the Cats, and as the team learned in the game against Maine on Sunday, NU can’t underestimate any opponent.

Then come the Scarlet Knights on Oct. 13, who boast a strong defense with the potential to shut down NU’s aggressive attack. The Cats struggled offensively in their past two games, as Maryland and Maine managed to set the tone early and limit NU’s scoring opportunities.

Senior midfielder Saar de Breij and junior forward Mackenzie Keegan will need to focus on being proactive and starting the games off strong. In the last two games, the Terrapins and Black Bears scored early, and the Cats spent most of the matches trying to tie the score.

“We need to bring the energy, so we don’t just respond to the energy that the other team is bringing,” de Breij said. “We need to set the tone.”

Scoring against Rutgers this weekend will be a challenge — they have only allowed 12 goals this season, while NU has allowed 23. But the Cats scored 42 goals this season to the Scarlet Knights’ 15, so leading scorer Bente Baekers and the rest of the Northwestern offense will have to be ready.

“We need to be creative, get shots on goal and be really feisty on rebounds,” head coach Tracey Fuchs said. “Just continue to push and draw corners and try to get some of their defenders back to the 50.”

Keegan said the team had a productive week of practice, in addition to a team meeting Tuesday to discuss the group mindset and the importance of the games ahead of them.

NU are currently sitting fourth in the Big Ten, just behind No. 2 Maryland, No. 7 Iowa and No. 11 Michigan. Beating Rutgers and Penn State this weekend would put them right on track to accomplish their team goal: a Big Ten Championship.

“We have a really special group,” Keegan said. “Everyone brings something different to the table, and we want to cherish every moment, and we also want to win.”

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