Field Hockey: Northwestern to face Delaware in first round of the NCAA Tournament


Daily file photo by Kelsey Carroll

Senior forward Lakin Barry dribbles the ball up the field. The senior leader will be a key offensive contributor Friday.

Skye Swann, Assistant Sports Editor

Field Hockey

Northwestern is set to square off with Delaware Friday in the first round of the 2021 NCAA Division I Field Hockey Tournament after clinching one of three at-large bids.

The Wildcats (11-5, 5-3 Big Ten) will head to Chapel Hill, N.C. for the team’s first non-conference game of the season against the Blue Hens (6-3, 3-2 CAA) who finished third in the Colonial Athletic Association.

NU’s last appearance at the Big Dance ended with a 2-1 loss to Boston College in 2019. This year’s tournament marks the fourth appearance made by the team under coach Tracey Fuchs.

The Cats’ last game was a 2-1 overtime loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals. Despite the loss, Fuchs was optimistic about the team’s postseason chances. She said the Cats worked extremely hard all year and felt confident they would clinch a bid.

Against the Buckeyes, NU struggled offensively and relied on their defense to keep the game tied throughout regulation.

“We had a tough first half, (Ohio State) was definitely down on our throats,” senior defender Christen Conley said of the loss.

Conley will play an important role defending the Cats’ cage on Friday. Another standout in the circle is junior defender Kayla Blas, who earned Big Ten First Team honors. The dynamic duo has limited opposing teams to an average of 1.38 goals per game.

“Christen and Kayla have been two of the most consistent players I’ve had in the program,” Fuchs said. “They held us all season, so I can’t say enough about them.”

Freshman goalkeeper Annabel Skubisz will also be a critical piece in NU’s defensive puzzle. Fuchs said the first-year has played extremely well after stepping in for injured senior goalie Florien Marcussen. Saving goals at 77 percent, she finished the regular season ranked fourth in the Big Ten for saves made.

The Cats will rely on Skubisz’s speed in the change to stop Delaware freshman back Julia Duffhuis who leads the Blue Hens with five goals.

Offensively, NU is led by redshirt sophomore forward Bente Baekers. With twelve goals on the season, including seven goals in the past six games, Fuchs believes the offense can get anything done with her on the field.

The Big Second Team honoree is known for her jaw-dropping reverse backhand shot. She said it’s her favorite and Fuchs agreed with the sentiment, calling it a “world class goal.”

“She’s explosive and can break it open at any point,” Fuchs said.

The Cats will need Baekers’ offensive firepower Friday against Delaware, especially after the team struggled to successfully convert their shots against Ohio State. Fuchs said finishing shots is an area the team needs to improve on in the postseason.

“We’re just going to continue to get better in the scoring zone,” Fuchs said. “And that’s what it takes to win championships.”

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