Field Hockey: No. 5 Northwestern falls to No. 4 Iowa in NCAA Tournament quarterfinals

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Daily file photo by Kelsey Carroll

Redshirt sophomore forward Bente Baekers lunges to block an Iowa player . She scored Northwestern’s lone goal in a loss to the Hawkeyes Sunday in the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals.

Skye Swann, Assistant Sports Editor


Field Hockey


No. 5 Northwestern lost 3-1 to No. 4 Iowa Sunday in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament, ending the team’s chance to win the first national title in program history. 

“We were gassed today from playing Friday,” coach Tracey Fuchs said. “We had our chances to get back in the game we just couldn’t get it done today.” 

Although the Wildcats (12-6, 5-3 Big Ten) swept the Hawkeyes (12-5, 5-3 Big Ten) in the regular season, the squad struggled offensively Sunday at Karen Shelton Stadium in Chapel Hill, NC. Outshot by Iowa 18-13, the Cats couldn’t connect inside the circle turning the ball over frequently.

Redshirt sophomore forward Bente Baekers scored the team’s lone goal, continuing her eight game scoring streak. But the rest of the offense struggled. NU was unsuccessful in six out of the seven penalty corner attempts in the game, which Fuchs felt contributed to the loss. 

“I’m happy we improved (on our corner attempts), but we just didn’t have enough gas in the tank today,” Fuchs said.

The Cats started the first quarter on the defensive, unable to stop the Hawkeyes’ quick ball movement Seven minutes into the game, Iowa junior forward Ciara Smith scored a goal to give the Hawkeyes a 1-0 lead.

After Iowa got on the board, NU started off slow, but eventually went on the offensive late in the first quarter for an unsuccessful corner attempt.

The Cats’ offensive momentum carried into the second quarter when Baekers scored on a corner attempt. The goal gave the Netherlands native — who tallied all three scores in the regular season showdowns against Iowa — her fifteenth of the season.

However, the tie was short-lived as Iowa senior forward Maddy Murphy captured her own rebound, scoring in the twentieth minute. 

NU didn’t tie the score before the end of the half, allowing Iowa to take the advantage. Freshman goalkeeper Annabel Skubisz spent the remainder of the quarter on her heels making saves. 

The third quarter started in the same fashion as the beginning of the game: with the Cats on the defensive. 

Iowa received another penalty corner eighteen seconds into the third quarter. Even though the shot was blocked, Murphy kept the ball inside the circle to force another attempt. This allowed junior midfielder Lokke Stribos to extend the Hawkeyes’ lead to 3-1. 

For the rest of the game, the Cats’ attempts to get at the goal were stifled by the Hawkeyes’ defense and junior goalkeeper Grace McGuire. McGuire made eight saves throughout the course of the game.

Meanwhile, Skubisz made seven saves, but gave up three goals to McGuire’s one. 

Finishing the 2021 season with 12 wins and an appearance in the national quarterfinals, Fuchs said she’s optimistic about next season, as many players are returning to Evanston.

“We had freshmen that contributed significantly, including our goalkeeper,” Fuchs said. “Anytime you get to experience an NCAA tournament you’re going to be better for it so I’m looking forward to the future.”

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Twitter: @sswann301

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