Field Hockey: Northwestern ends their season with a 2-1 defeat to Boston College in the NCAA tournament


Daily file photo by Alison Albelda

Kayla Blas runs through midfield against Maryland. The sophomore defender earned All-Big Ten second team honors this season.

Gabriela Carroll, Reporter

Field Hockey

With one minute remaining in the NCAA Tournament opener between Northwestern and Boston College, it seemed like the stars aligned for a Wildcats victory. NU had built up momentum after a shaky start and banked one in to tie it near the end of the game.

Then Boston College scored, and it all came crashing down.

The Cats (14-8, 5-3 Big Ten) were eliminated from the NCAA Tournament after a 2-1 defeat to the Eagles on Friday. NU was outshot 14-9, although their shots-on-goal margin was a more even 7-5. Boston College had three more penalty corners than the Cats, including one that sparked the game winner.

NU looked a bit out of its depth in the first quarter — it allowed seven Eagles shots and couldn’t seem to force the ball out of their defensive circle. And while the Cats defense held firm and allowed no goals in the quarter, the offense struggled in transition.

NU struggled to take control of the game offensively in later quarters, but it did get stronger and more aggressive over the course of the match, and outshot Boston College 4-2 in the final quarter.

“I thought our team played a really good match,” coach Tracey Fuchs said. “Unfortunately they were able to score on that corner at the last minute, but I thought we had a lot of great performances, and I was really proud of how we as a team performed.”

In the final minutes of the first half, Boston College’s leading scorer Margo Carlin fielded a long transition pass off a Cats turnover, catching NU by surprise for a quick goal. The score left the Cats playing from behind for much of the second half.

Freshman forward Bente Baekers tied it up early in the fourth quarter with a penalty stroke after an Eagles defender hacked her stick and directly prevented her from scoring. The goal brings Baekers’ season total to 28, tied for second most in program history, and the most goals scored by any Big Ten player, since Chelsea Armstrong set Northwestern’s program record with 29 in 2012.
With the clock winding down, Boston College forward Elizabeth Warner deflected a penalty corner hit from the top of the circle and knocked it in to give them a 2-1 lead.

Despite the loss, NU improved remarkably from last season’s 9-10 campaign, and the play of its underclassmen gives coach Tracey Fuchs hope for the future.

“We have a good core coming back,” Fuchs said. “That’s always promising for a coach.”

In addition to Baekers, the Big Ten Freshman of the Year, many underclassmen have seen significant time for the Cats this season. Freshman midfielder Alia Marshall was one of NU’s best players on the field on Friday, as she facilitated offensive transitions and consistently found holes to pass or dribble through to give the Cats offensive chances.

NU will lose only three starters next season: senior defenders Lily Gandhi and Kirsten Mansfield and senior midfielder Saar de Breij. Fuchs said that the Cats’ reliance on their bench throughout the season means a lot of their roster has playing experience.

NU has a lot of talent on their roster, especially with the emergence of Baekers and sophomore defenseman Kayla Blas, well positioned to either continue or top their success this season next year.

“We’re in the process right now of reflecting, and seeing what we have coming back and what we have coming in,” Fuchs said. “We want to take a look at the whole program and see what our strengths and weaknesses are, but we’re looking forward to the winter and the spring.”

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