Field Hockey: No. 4 Northwestern suffers first sweep of season, falls twice to No. 10 Rutgers


Ryan Kuttler/Northwestern Athletics

Annabel Skubisz makes a save against Michigan. The Wildcats fell twice to Rutgers over the weekend.

Gabriela Carroll, Senior Staffer

Field Hockey

Northwestern stumbled in Piscataway this weekend, dropping both games to Rutgers and getting swept for the first time this season.

The Wildcats got into a 2-0 hole just three minutes into Friday’s contest. The Scarlet Knights scored on a penalty corner, and then came right back for a second goal less than a minute later. After that first quarter, NU (8-4, 8-4 Big Ten) held Rutgers (9-3, 9-3 Big Ten) to just one shot, but despite the strong defensive effort in its own zone, the team struggled to find scoring opportunities.

The Cats finally got on the board in the third quarter when sophomore forward Bente Baekers dribbled the ball into the circle and scored an unassisted goal. NU outshot the Scarlet Knights 13-4 during the game, and had five corner opportunities, including one late in the game that gave the Cats an opportunity to tie it. But they failed to convert offensively and fell 2-1 in regulation.

The early lapses proved to be the difference maker in what coach Tracey Fuchs said was otherwise one of the best games of the season.

“We just had a bad three minutes to start the game,” Fuchs said. “Rutgers is a team that doesn’t give up a lot of opportunities, and they pack the circle. We tried to come back and just couldn’t do it.”

Fuchs was also critical of the team’s inconsistency in a 3-2 overtime loss on Sunday against the Scarlet Knights. This time, it was NU that got off to a quick start, with Baekers scoring one on a penalty corner early in the first quarter. Rutgers responded with penalty corner goals of its own in the second and third, and the Cats struggled to keep possession inside their offensive zone.

NU tied it up in the fourth quarter, though, after sophomore midfielder Ana Medina Garcia tipped in a rebound on a penalty corner. But the Cats were stagnant for the rest of the period and were unable to clear the ball fully into their offensive zone.

Medina Garcia received a yellow card with just under five minutes to go and was out of the game for the remainder of regulation. Losing her slowed NU’s efforts in transition and removed one of their best scorers.

“Our team did really well to hold them off,” Fuchs said. “Five minutes is a long time to play a man down, especially with one of our key midfielders. It also meant we subbed less, and so I think we got a little tired in the second half.”

The game proceeded to overtime. The Scarlet Knights scored early on a penalty corner to end the game and complete the sweep.

Before this series, the Cats hadn’t been swept by any opponents this year. With just one series remaining against No. 2 Iowa before the Big Ten Tournament, NU has one more chance to boost their NCAA tournament resume. With only three at-large bids available, the Cats will need to finish strong to ensure they get a chance to compete for a national championship.

“We just didn’t do the details well,” Fuchs said of this weekend’s series. “We just need to keep getting better at going in and getting rebounds and doing what we do best, which is playing fast, taking risks, and being scrappy in front of the goal.”

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Twitter: @gablcarroll

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