Field Hockey: Northwestern prepares to conclude regular season with high stakes Iowa and Indiana contests


Kelsey Carroll/Daily Senior Staffer

Sophomore midfielder Lauren Wadas dribbles the ball down the field with pressure from a Michigan State defender. Wadas will be a key contributor to Northwestern’s offense against Iowa and Indiana this weekend.

Skye Swann, Assistant Sports Editor

When Northwestern redshirt junior Bente Baekers approached the penalty stroke line, she placed her stick down and looked the goalie right in the eyes, ready to secure another goal over a gritty Michigan State team.

Penalty strokes are uncommon, so Baekers had to deliver. And when the whistle sounded, she did just that — sending the ball right past the goalie’s feet and calling the game with only a few minutes remaining. The Wildcats (12-4, 3-3 Big Ten) scored a stunning win over the Spartans, giving the Cats what coach Tracey Fuchs said the program needs some win with Big Ten foes Iowa and Indiana on deck this weekend. With these contests being the last two regular season games, NU will have a prime opportunity to set itself up for a successful postseason run.

“This is going to be a battle,” Fuchs said. “(Iowa) is feisty when it comes to shots and Indiana is consistent so we need to just play our game.”

The Cats commence their grand finale stunt against the Hawkeyes (16-0, 7-0) Friday for the teams’ first matchup this season. Although NU boasts two wins over Iowa from its 2020 campaign, the Cats dropped one to the Hawkeyes 3-1 in the 2020 NCAA tournament in May, a loss that ended NU’s season. Friday’s matchup in Iowa City, Iowa, is not just a regular season showdown for the Cats, but a chance at revenge.

As NU closes out their bye week, Fuchs said the team needed to close in on many points of focus to earn a win over the Hawkeyes.

Fuchs felt the Cats must ramp up their shooting accuracy. In the win over Michigan State, NU made six out of its 28 shots, an area where Fuchs saw room for improvement. She said the Cats need to get more successful in shooting on goal as Iowa’s defense will give them challenges inside the circle.

And for a program that currently sits undefeated and at the top of the conference standings, defense is a specialty, something NU will have to contend with to score goals. With wins over No. 2 Michigan and No. 3 Rutgers, two teams who defeated NU this season, Iowa will apply the pressure Friday and attempt to keep the Cats scoreless.

Baekers and graduate student forward Clara Roth will be key players to look for in the contest. The two players currently lead the program in goals this season. For the Cats to avenge their postseason woes, NU will rely on this dynamic duo to make noise on offense against the Hawkeyes.

“I owe it all to my teammates who create lanes for me to take shots,” Roth said. “We took time to refocus our shooting against Michigan State and I think we’ll be ready for the games ahead of us.”

After the Iowa matchup, NU heads back to Lakeside Field to host Indiana Sunday (10-8, 2-5) for its final regular season game. Roth said the team will have to shift mindsets to prepare for Indiana, since this team is “completely different” from the Hawkeyes.

NU’s last standoff against the Hoosiers ended with a two-game shutout sweep. Once again, Baekers was one of the main offensive threats, scoring two goals on Indiana in NU’s 2020 home opener. Her presence on the field Sunday will be not only a weapon, but will also create opportunities for other forwards to score, Fuchs said.

Following the Cats’ last two games, Fuchs highlighted Baekers’ performance, saying she was a “true leader ” over the weekend. She praised the redshirt junior’s composure and energy on the field, which she said shifted NU’s momentum following a 32-minute scoring drought while playing the Spartans.

Roth agreed with the sentiment, adding this intensity is something the squad aims to bring to the Hoosiers with their postseason standings still in the air. Not only would a win be a step in the right direction for the Cats, but it would send a message to the rest of the Big Ten that the program has the pieces to win the title and clinch a spot in the NCAA tournament.

“Our goal is to make it to the Final Four,” Fuchs said. “Our success starts with us in trying to get there so we’ll be ready to play next week.”

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