Field Hockey: Northwestern seeks revenge with second chance match against Michigan in Big Ten Quarterfinals


Joshua Hoffman/Daily Senior Staffer

Redshirt junior forward Bente Baekers runs down Lakeside Field with the ball. Baekers is ranked second in the program with 60 career goals.

Skye Swann, Assistant Sports Editor

When Northwestern sophomore goalie Annabel Skubisz missed a save in double overtime against Michigan Oct. 8, disappointment rippled through the sidelines.

“We just had some struggles with our corners and (Michigan) is really fast,” coach Tracey Fuchs said. 

With a successful close to the regular season, the Wildcats (14-4, 5-3 Big Ten) have earned a second chance to avenge their double overtime loss to the Wolverines in a high stakes Big Ten Quarterfinal contest. NU will travel to Piscataway, N.J. to battle Michigan (13-3, 5-3) Thursday. They demand payback and also seek to continue their 2021 postseason run.

This matchup will be an all-out battle, Fuchs said, and the Cats must maintain possession of the ball — an objective the squad struggled to reach in their first meetup. In the regular season game the Wolverines’ high-powered offensive unit penetrated NU’s defense too easily, Fuchs said. Since then, Fuchs emphasized, the team’s backline intensity has improved.

Two of the Cats’ solid leaders on the defensive end of the field are Skubiz and senior defender Kayla Blas. Skubiz was named NFHCA’s Defensive Player of the Week Wednesday following her five recorded saves in NU’s win over Iowa. Alongside her that day, Blas received All-Big Ten second team honors for her stellar performance throughout the season. 

“Kayla is our rock on defense,” Fuchs said. “When she gets the ball, she puts it in place and has really stepped up for us when needed.”

On the offensive end, the Cats will look to redshirt junior Bente Baekers and sophomore midfielder Maddie Zimmer. For a third consecutive year, Baekers was recognized Wednesday with All-Big Ten first team honors. The Netherlands native leads the team with 17 goals and ranks second in the program with 60 career goals.

Meanwhile, Zimmer was honored with an All-Big Ten first team nod. Zimmer was one of the five Cats who made the USA Junior World Cup team earlier in October.

Following NU’s shutout win over Indiana on Senior Day, Zimmer praised the group’s strong communication and ability to play fast in the midfield. She emphasized this skill as one of the team’s secret weapons and believed it will assist the Cats against Michigan.

With the fate of the squad’s postseason run up in the air, a strong performance against the Wolverines will advance the Cats to the next round of the Big Ten Tournament and improve their chances of securing a bid to the NCAA tournament. From the moment NU lost in the Elite Eight in May, Fuchs said the Cats’ mission has been to get back there and bring home a championship to Evanston, Ill.

And the time has come for the Cats to continue their conquest for a NCAA title with the make-or-break matchup against Michigan. If NU can top the Wolverines this time around, they will be one step closer to their goal of the NCAA tournament and bringing home a Big Ten Championship.

“Everybody in the Big Ten is pretty much ranked in the top 25, so you just have to take the games as they’ve come and grow from each game,” Fuchs said. “We have a team that can go deep in the tournament, but we have to prove it on the field.”


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