Field Hockey: No. 4 Northwestern sweeps Iowa in regular season finale


Daily file photo by Kelsey Carroll

Redshirt sophomore forward Bente Baekers lunges to block Iowa defender from clearing the ball. Baekers scored all three goals this weekend against the Hawkeyes.

Skye Swann, Assistant Sports Editor

Field Hockey

There were five minutes left in the second quarter when redshirt sophomore forward Bente Baekers dribbled the ball around the sixteen to hit a reverse shot into the top right corner of the goal.

That was the first of the two goals Baekers scored Thursday, helping the Wildcats secure a 2-1 win and setting the stage for a weekend of upsets against the Hawkeyes.

“We needed to change some things up and really get together and that’s what we did this weekend,” Baekers said of the team’s performance. “Beating Iowa was great for our self esteem.”

Following two upset losses to then-No. 10 Rutgers, No. 4 Northwestern (10-4, 5-3 Big Ten) dominated No. 2 Iowa (10-4, 5-3 Big Ten) allowing only one goal the entire series. The Cats swept the Hawkeyes over the weekend to conclude the regular season and clinch the third seed in the Big Ten Tournament. 

NU’s offense was unstoppable against Iowa, especially Baekers, who scored all three goals to secure the wins at Lakeside Field. Recently crowned Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week, the Netherlands native said the team “worked hard for each other” during the weekend double-header.

Iowa junior goalkeeper Grace McGuire never quite figured out Baekers’ reverse shot. Baekers racked up two during Thursday’s matchup and one on Saturday, mystifying the Hawkeyes’ defense with what she said was one of her strongest types of shots.

Coach Tracey Fuchs agreed with the sentiment, saying Baekers “had world class goals” against Iowa. 

“She’s explosive and she can break it open at any point,” Fuchs said. “No goalkeeper could have stopped two of those, so we’re happy she’s getting some scoring chances.”

Fuchs said the offense had a great weekend, but still believes there is some work to do on finishing shots. Outshot by the Hawkeyes 18-14, she thought the team could improve in the scoring zone. 

She was critical of the lack of penalty corners taken during Sunday’s matchup, as the Cats took none to Iowa’s four. Her goal for the postseason is to strengthen NU’s play off the corner, saying the team “has a lot of potential.”

The Cats’ defense held their own against an active Iowa offense. Senior defender Christen Conley and junior midfielder Alia Marshall ruled the backline, ensuring all of Iowa’s nine corners were unsuccessful.

Freshman goalkeeper Annabel Skubiz played a big role in shutting down the Hawkeyes’ offense as well.The first year from Houston faced eight Iowa shots — five on goal — Thursday afternoon. Despite letting in a lone goal, she blocked all five corner attempts in the game, including a last minute attempt by the Hawkeyes to force overtime.

“She stepped up this season and played really well,” Fuch said of Skubiz’s goalkeeping over the weekend. “It’s nice to know that we’ll have her for three or four more years.”

The Cats will head to Iowa City, Iowa on Wednesday to face Rutgers in the quarterfinal round of the Big Ten Tournament. Baekers said this is a redemption match for them, since the  team suffered two “great losses” to the Scarlet Knights during the regular season.

The Big Ten Tournament will be high stakes for the Cats, with both a championship and an NCAA tournament bid on the line. Baekers said it’s a matter of pointing out the team’s weaknesses and working on those areas in the next few days for the Cats to succeed against Rutgers.

“We’re not going to let (Rutgers) beat us a third time,” Baekers said. “We’re going to get together and discuss what we need to do.”

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