Field Hockey: No. 11 Northwestern prepares to honor its seniors in final regular season contest vs. Indiana

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Field Hockey: No. 11 Northwestern prepares to honor its seniors in final regular season contest vs. Indiana

Lily Gandhi stares at her opponents on the field. The senior defender will play in her final home game on Friday.

Lily Gandhi stares at her opponents on the field. The senior defender will play in her final home game on Friday.

Daily file photo by Alison Albelda

Lily Gandhi stares at her opponents on the field. The senior defender will play in her final home game on Friday.

Daily file photo by Alison Albelda

Daily file photo by Alison Albelda

Lily Gandhi stares at her opponents on the field. The senior defender will play in her final home game on Friday.

Gabriela Carroll, Reporter

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Northwestern needs to gain as much momentum as possible heading into the Big Ten Tournament.

The No. 11 Wildcats will have that opportunity when they face off against Indiana on Friday in their last regular season game. The Hoosiers (5-11, 1-6 Big Ten) are coming off a win at Central Michigan, though they’re having a difficult season. They lost eight straight games prior and won just one Big Ten game this season against Michigan State, the last-place team.

Indiana’s struggles are a result of the overall strength of the Big Ten. There are currently six teams in the Big Ten ranked in the top 25, and only seven teams qualify for the Big Ten Tournament. If the Hoosiers lose this weekend, they won’t make the postseason, as they are currently in eighth place. NU can expect a motivated team playing to keep their season alive.

NU (12-6, 4-3) needs to win this game to stay in the top half of the Big Ten standings, and the Hoosiers provide the Cats with a perfect opportunity to make that happen. Indiana only averages 1.63 goals per game and on average allows 3.56. The Cats average three goals per game and allow 1.61, almost the exact inverse of the Hoosiers.

Unfortunately, the Cats’ fate doesn’t just depend on a win Friday. NU also needs to keep an eye on Michigan vs. Iowa and Rutgers vs. Penn State.

If Iowa beats Michigan, the Cats will jump to third place with a win Friday. Then they would avoid being in the same half of the bracket as No. 2 Maryland and get an opportunity for a revenge game against No. 9 Iowa. If Penn State beats Rutgers, NU will fall to fifth with a loss Friday.

But on their senior day, the Cats have so much more to play for than just Big Ten Tournament seeding.

“This game is huge, and I’m so motivated,” senior defender Lily Gandhi said. “I’m always motivated throughout the game, but this being our last game at home is especially motivating.”

Gandhi said she most treasured her off-field memories with her teammates, like getting ice cream at Penn State. Luckily, she’ll have an extra opportunity to do so with the Big Ten Tournament there next week.

“I’m so grateful for all of the friends and the good times that my year has had at Northwestern,” Gandhi said. “It’s sad that everything’s coming to an end, but it’s nice to see how everyone has grown into themselves.”

Coach Tracey Fuchs said NU has seven graduating seniors this year and one redshirt junior, Lakin Barry, who will be staying for her final season next year. Fuchs believes having so much senior leadership will be extremely beneficial for the team as they enter the postseason.

The seniors provide a steady presence that keeps the team focused on their goals, she said. Coming into the postseason, where every game is a must-win, the Cats need that focus to be successful.

“They’re all over the map, from their majors to their skills on the field,” Fuchs said. “They bring a lot of different types of leadership — we call it pop-up leadership. They all bring something different to the table.”

Email: gabrielacarroll2023@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @gablcarroll

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