Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman
Northwestern redshirt junior forward Bente Baekers ended her conference season scoring drought by securing a goal and assist in College Park, Md., giving the Wildcats a 3-1 win.
After surrendering a 2-1 loss to Rutgers at a Sept. 24 home game, NU needed a reset. The team worked on shooting miscues and penalty corner mistakes before battling one of the top competitors in the conference in Maryland. With the Cats heading into their first away matchup against the Terrapins in two years, the stakes were high.
But NU dominated.
The Cats (9-3, 1-2 Big Ten) successfully defeated No. 7 Maryland (7-4,1-3), controlling the pace of the game, attacking the cage each quarter, after the first, and scoring a goal. The offensive dominance was a team effort. Along with Baekers, sophomore midfielder Maddie Zimmer and graduate student forward Clara Roth scored.
“We’re pretty strong (in the offensive zone),” coach Tracey Fuchs said. “We had some great chances at Maryland.”
To complement her signature reverse backhanded goal, Baekers played a critical role in the offensive zone, continuing her momentum from a successful 2020 campaign. Fuchs added that Baekers’ versatility inside the circle gives the squad an offensive weapon.
Heading into Sunday’s square off against Penn State, Baekers found the cage again, scoring the lone goal for the Cats. Although NU fell short in overtime, Fuchs said there was a plethora of shooting opportunities.
“We weren’t able to capitalize at Penn State,” Fuchs said. “We had 11 corners and lots of chances. The good thing is we were able to stay in the game, tie it up late and get into overtime.”
The redshirt junior’s goal forced the Cats into overtime, saving the game in the remaining two minutes. But after getting outshot by the Nittany Lions 17-15, NU slipped up in double overtime, dropping another nail biting 2-1 loss in conference play.
Despite splitting the weekend, Fuchs remained optimistic about the Cats’ upcoming game in Ann Arbor, Mi., facing the No. 2 Wolverines. Another tough matchup, Michigan was crowned 2020 Big Ten Champions and 2020 NCAA finalist this spring.
With an entire week before the contest, Fuchs said recovery and practice are two components the Cats will focus on in preparation. She also felt shooting accuracy was an area NU still needed to work on due to the amount of shots missed in the past game.
NU split its series with the Wolverines last season, going 1-1 on the road. A win over the top tiered program is something Fuchs and the team want and would make a statement of NU’s intentions to return to the NCAA tournament.
Although the upcoming battle appears challenging, Fuchs said she has extreme faith in her team to come out victorious if they excel in shooting, defensive tackles and penalty corners — areas the Cats struggled with against Penn State.
Just a few games into the regular season, NU stands in the middle of the conference. Big wins against top teams in the division could give the squad the momentum needed to earn a high seed in the Big Ten Tournament and claim their spot in postseason play.
“Michigan is obviously undefeated, so this game is gonna (test us),” Fuchs said. “They’re fast and solid in every position but I think we’ll be up for the task.”
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