Field Hockey: Northwestern defeats Rutgers 3-1 and advances to the Big Ten semifinals


Daily file photo by Alison Albelda

Bente Baekers guards a player. The freshman forward recorded a hat trick in the Cats’ first Big Ten Tournament game.

Gabriela Carroll, Reporter

Field Hockey

After fending off four penalty corners to end the half, Northwestern desperately needed a jolt to solidify their lead.

Freshman forward Bente Baekers delivered.

The Big Ten Freshman of the Year scored two goals in quick succession to open the half and bury Rutgers for good. She had all three scores for the Wildcats on Thursday, her fourth hat trick of the season. Baekers’ 27 goals this season are two off the program’s record of 29, set by Chelsea Armstrong in 2012.

“She’s a finisher. Really proud of her. It really shows what an offensive threat she is,” coach Tracey Fuchs said. “Certainly her teammates have a lot to do with it, but her corner’s getting better and better… and she’s just always in the right place.”

Baekers scored her first goal with a reverse hit that sailed just over the stick of the Scarlet Knights’ junior goalie Gianna Glatz in the first quarter, giving NU (14-6, 5-3 Big Ten) an early advantage. The Cats used that momentum and played lockdown defense, but couldn’t seem to find the back of the net for an insurance goal for the rest of the first half.

Baekers changed that just seconds into the second half. She collected a hit from outside and fought to work it into the goal. Mere minutes later, she drove another one in on a penalty corner to give NU a 3-0 lead.

Senior midfielder Saar de Breij said the lead gave the Cats the freedom to play loosely and to let go of the initial stress of the Big Ten Tournament.

“By the time you get to the tournament, your players are a little nervous, so we wanted them to go out and be really really aggressive because Rutgers is a really good defensive team,” Fuchs said. “We did that, and the kids really played together today.”

NU will face Iowa in the next round of the Big Ten Tournament, after Iowa demolished Ohio State 4-1 earlier in the day to advance to the semifinals for the second straight year.

The Cats lost a heartbreaker to the Hawkeyes on Oct. 26. During the contest, NU got out to an early 1-0 lead but allowed the Hawkeyes to complete a comeback. This time around, they are aiming for a different result.

“Today was a tight game in the beginning, but we kept fighting for each other, and we were not willing to give up our lead,” de Breij said. “We knew 1-0 was not enough. That is what went wrong during the Iowa game, we sort of got comfortable with the 1-0 lead, so now we are looking for more goals and more goals and are not satisfied with a one- or even a two-goal lead. We just keep wanting more, and then we’ll protect that lead.”

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