Field Hockey: Northwestern prepares for rematch against Rutgers in Big Ten Tournament


Kelsey Carroll/The Daily Northwestern

Maddie Zimmer battles for the ball against Iowa. The freshman midfielder took home Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors this season.

Gabriela Carroll, Senior Staffer

Field Hockey

After a 10-win regular season, Northwestern secured the No. 3 seed in the Big Ten Tournament.  But for the first round, which begins on Wednesday, the Wildcats (10-4, 5-3 Big Ten) drew sixth-seeded Rutgers (9-5, 5-4 Big Ten) — the only team who beat them twice this season. 

NU rebounded from those two losses by sweeping No. 4 Iowa last weekend, but in order to advance in the tournament and take home a conference title, the Cats will need to find a way to beat the Scarlet Knights.

In their last matchups against Rutgers, NU struggled to defend the Scarlet Knights’ penalty corners. Three of Rutgers’ five goals in those games came off corner plays and NU’s usually stout defense in that area faltered.

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

Coach Tracey Fuchs said she couldn’t pinpoint a specific struggle for their corner defense and praised the Scarlet Knights for their corner looks. 

“Every corner was different,” Fuchs said. “We usually can get a touch on it up top, and they were throwing some little bouncy lifts to get over our flyer. We just couldn’t stop them.”

Ahead of the postseason clash, the Cats picked up some hardware Monday, as freshman midfielder Maddie Zimmer earned Big Ten Freshman of the Year and First Team All-Big Ten honors. Zimmer, who immediately became one of NU’s strongest ball-handlers, has scored three goals this season and is a dominant force in the midfield. 

Other honorees included Baekers — who earned Second Team All-Big Ten honors — and defenseman Kayla Blas. The junior earned a spot on the All-Big Ten First Team, her second career All-Big Ten honor after earning Second Team honors last year.

But the Cats aren’t just after individual honors this season. 

The winner of the Big Ten Tournament not only takes home the championship trophy, but is an automatic qualifier for the NCAA Tournament. Only three at-large teams will get bids, and while NU is in good position for one — sitting at No. 5 in the nation — a strong performance in the conference tournament will secure them a shot at competing for a national title.

The Cats will be looking to build off of their strong performances against Iowa in the tournament. Baekers scored all three goals for NU last weekend and the defense stayed strong on a penalty corner try in the final minutes of Friday’s matchup.

“Beating Iowa was great for our self esteem and belief in ourselves,” Baekers said. “We worked so hard with each other and for each other. That gives me such good hopes for the Big Ten Tournament.”

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Twitter: @gablcarroll

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