Field Hockey: Northwestern set to conclude regular season against Iowa


Photo courtesy of Northwestern Athletics

Sophomore midfielder Alia Marshall jumps in celebration of a goal. Northwestern is concluding the regular season this weekend against Iowa.

Skye Swann, Assistant Sports Editor

Field Hockey

After getting swept in a series against Rutgers, Northwestern will get a shot at redemption this weekend in its face-off against Iowa in the regular season finale.

With the Big Ten Tournament just days away, the Wildcats, currently ranked fifth in the conference, are looking to defeat the No. 2 Hawkeyes to rise in the standings ahead of the postseason.

The Cats, who take the most shots per game in the Big Ten with 17.09, have shot well during the season — and have to keep that up to beat the Hawkeyes. Last week against the Scarlet Knights, NU (8-4, 4-3 Big Ten) struggled to turn its shots into goals in both match-ups, even though there were plenty of opportunities.

“We just didn’t do the details well,” coach Tracey Fuchs said. “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.”

The Cats controlled the offensive momentum against Rutgers last Friday, outshooting its opponents by 12 shots — including a 13-4 margin in a 2-1 loss. But the Cats couldn’t find scoring opportunities, which Fuchs attributed to the Scarlet Knights’ strong defensive zone.

In Friday’s matchup, Rutgers’ defense forced a slow start for NU. Fuchs said this contributed to the team’s loss, despite it being “one of the best games of the season.” The Cats trailed 2-0 for most of the game until sophomore forward Bente Baekers scored an unassisted goal in the 34th minute.

Even though Sunday’s game started with NU in the lead, thanks to an early goal from Baekers, Rutgers responded quickly with two goals of their own. Sophomore midfielder Ana Medina Garcina evened the score at two with less than 15 minutes remaining in regulation, but the Scarlet Knights scored early in overtime to clinch the sweep.

“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 Cats’ offense has their work cut out for them against Iowa, who allows the fewest goals per game in the conference. To lead the offensive effort, NU will likely look to Baekers, the reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year and an All-Big Ten First Team member in 2019. Baekers currently leads the team with seven goals and five assists on the season and she earned a career-high two points against Ohio State on March 26.

In 2019, Iowa defeated NU twice, including a 2-1 victory in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament. In both contests, the Hawkeyes outshot the Cats 21-9 — with twelve of the shots coming on goal.

With only three at-large bids for the NCAA Tournament, one or two wins over Iowa would boost NU’s chances to compete for a national title. The Cats last appeared in the tournament in 2019 and lost in the first round to Boston College, who outshot NU 14-9 in the matchup.

When reflecting on the losses to Rutgers, Fuchs said the team “just couldn’t put a few home that we had our chances to put away.” This weekend, the Cats will need to put home those shots. It could be the difference between a rise in the Big Ten standings or a fall further away from NCAA Tournament contention.

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