Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman
When the overtime whistle sounded, Northwestern junior defender Kayla Blas said it was a second chance moment, after losing in double overtime to Penn State five days earlier.
But when Michigan sophomore midfielder Anouk Veen’s corner shot hit the back post, the game immediately ended, handing the Wildcats another nail biting overtime loss.
“(Michigan) was able to handle their counter attack extremely well,” Blas said.
NU (10-4, 1-3 Big Ten) dropped another conference battle Friday to No. 2 Michigan (11-0, 3-0) in Ann Arbor. The Cats faced a tremendous challenge taking on the undefeated Wolverines, a squad known for their high-attacking offense. Despite dropping the matchup, NU held their own against the 2020 Big Ten Champions, keeping Michigan scoreless after the first quarter until overtime.
Blas credited their defensive success to effective communication, praising the Cats’ smooth transition inside the circle to handle the Wolverines’ corner attack. She felt NU’s intensity throughout the game was their secret weapon as it challenged Michigan to turn over the ball.
“We were just able to be diligent on who was marking who and our pressure was on,” Blas said. “Everyone had so much energy, so much want, making everyone on the field want it even more which honestly helped us.”
Coach Tracey Fuchs said she was proud of her team for keeping in the game, even though it wasn’t the result the group wanted. The Cats struggled with their corner offense, which she said left too many open shots on the field. Outshooting the Wolverines 18-11, NU stumbled at the Michigan goal frequently, missing shots by close margins and making corner mistakes, costing the group possession.
But the Cats bounced back with a dominant 6-1 win over Ball State (4-8, 2-1 MAC) Sunday to get the squad back on the right track.
Following the Wolverine loss, Fuchs said the mindset for Sunday’s game was to play hard and have fun. She said there weren’t many differences between NU’s performance between the two opponents, adding the Cats handled themselves well against a “feisty” Cardinal unit.
NU’s offense was on display the entire matchup, scoring in the first three quarters and tallying a high of 16 corners. Redshirt junior Bente Baekers led the group with three goals, adding to her 10 on the season currently.
Alongside Baekers, sophomore midfielders Maddie Zimmer and Lauren Wadas tallied a goal each, while senior defender Shannon Daley earned the Cats one more point before the end of regulation.
“We have a lot of offensive power, just looking at our scoring,” Fuchs said. “If you shut down one player, two or three others are going to score.”
As NU travels back to Lakeside Field, Fuchs mentioned the team will have to shift gears to prepare for a consistent Ohio State team. She said the Buckeyes will be effective inside the circle, so playing fast will be the key to keeping their scoring chances to a minimum.
Blas agreed, emphasizing the importance of tackling the ball on transitions and keeping possession. She felt optimistic about returning home for a conference game, explaining the Cats’ mindset of having fun on the field while sending out a statement to other teams in the Big Ten.
With competitive matchups ahead for NU, including Michigan State and Iowa, Blas said they will focus on winning and said she remains confident the Cats can handle the task.
“We’re excited to get back home and play,” Blas said. “We want to make a statement in the Big Ten that we’re here and we want it as much as any other team if not more.”
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