Field Hockey: Northwestern prepares to face Boston College in the first round of the NCAA tournament


Daily file photo by Alison Albelda

Saar de Breij surveys the field. The senior midfielder has scored nine goals this season.

Gabriela Carroll, Reporter

Field Hockey

Northwestern accomplished a big feat — it made the NCAA tournament. Now, it’s time for the Wildcats to try to win it.

NU will face Boston College in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday — and the Eagles are a familiar opponent for the Cats. NU defeated them 3-2 on Sept. 8, but Boston College has a lot of momentum after making a run to the finals of the ACC Tournament on Sunday.

NU (14-7, 5-3 Big Ten) is in No. 4 seeded Louisville’s region, and with a win will face either the Cardinals or Michigan. The Cats are very familiar with the Wolverines, a conference opponent, but have not faced Louisville since 2017.

“We’ve played all three of these teams (in our bracket) in our four years here, so they’re not unfamiliar, which I think is good for us, so we know what we’re getting with the teams,” senior midfielder Lily Katzman said. “It’s just going to be about coming out and doing the game plan and knowing our stuff.”

When NU faced the Eagles (13-7, 4-2 ACC) early in the season, they were outshot 17 to 9. The shot deficit allowed Boston College to take a 2-1 lead that they held up until late in the fourth quarter.

One of Boston College’s weaknesses are its penalty corners — they’ve allowed 94, and only taken 92 themselves. The Cats forced 119 corners this season and average 5.67 per game. If NU can take advantage of those opportunities like they did in their previous game against the Eagles, when freshman midfielder Peyton Halsey scored one off a penalty corner shot, that gives the team a critical edge over Boston College.

Boston College has won nine of its last eleven games, with those two losses both coming against defending NCAA champions No. 1 North Carolina, the favorite to win the NCAA Tournament. But some of the Eagles’ wins came against NCAA Tournament teams Duke, Virginia and Syracuse. The Eagles are hitting their stride at exactly the right time.

For the junior and senior Cats, this is their second time in the NCAA tournament, after an Elite Eight finish in 2017. Boston College has not made the tournament since 2016, so NU’s strong senior leadership and experience could give them an edge.

“Especially as seniors, it’s extra important. There are more emotions,” senior midfielder Saar de Breij added. “We don’t want the season to end, because it’s our last one.”

The Cats will need to play their best hockey to advance in the tournament. Coach Tracey Fuchs said that since the field is so small, it comes with great competition, and NU will need to rise to the challenge or risk being eliminated.

“We’ll just make sure everyone is calm but very excited,” de Breij said. “When we’re excited and poised, we play the best hockey.”

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