Rapid Recap: Northwestern 2, Liberty 0


John Riker/Daily Senior Staffer

Junior defender Alia Marshall carries the NCAA championship trophy. Field hockey won its first NCAA title in program history in a 2-0 win over Liberty.

Charlotte Varnes, Development and Recruitment Editor

Time to cue up “We Are the Champions.” 

For the first time ever, Northwestern field hockey captured the national championship. The Wildcats (18-5, 5-3) took down Liberty University 2-0 to record NU’s ninth national title ever and the first since 2012. 

The first half was a neck-and-neck battle between the two teams. The Flames had the edge offensively in the first period, receiving three penalty corners to NU’s one, but struggled to capitalize on these opportunities. They outshot the Cats’ five to two in total, but were unable to make it past sophomore goalkeeper Annabel Skubisz. Skubisz played a big role in keeping the score even, saving one of the Flames’ penalty corners and recording two saves total in the first. 

Roles reversed in the second quarter, when the Cats received five penalty corners to Liberty’s one. Similarly, NU couldn’t convert– even when redshirt junior forward Bente Baekers received a penalty stroke opportunity, giving her a one-on-one opportunity against Liberty’s goalkeeper. 

The teams entered halftime 0-0, with the Wildcats narrowly outshooting the Flames ten to nine. Liberty led in saves, however, with sophomore goalkeeper Azul Iritxity Irigoyen notching five to Skubisz’s two in the first half. 

The Cats completely changed the momentum in the third quarter.

Junior midfielder Alia Marshall delivered for the Cats, breaking through on a penalty corner to make it 1-0. Sophomore midfielder Maddie Zimmer added to the tally, notching a last-second goal for NU before the end of the period, giving the Cats a 2-0 lead heading into the fourth.

NU’s defense kept Liberty at arms-length in the second half, holding the Flames to just one shot and ensuring the team’s victory. 

From the end of the third, it was clearly the Cats’ game to lose. And they didn’t – making history for Northwestern. 


  • The Cats know how to dominate the second half

NU thrives on second-half pressure. Against Iowa, the Cats scored a last-minute goal to advance to the Final Four. Against UNC, NU didn’t score until the fourth quarter. The purple-and-white took down Harvard in overtime to advance to the championship game. And, against Liberty, the Cats came out firing in the third quarter. It’s been a trend of the tournament: NU knows how to ignite during the second half, and it’s a winning strategy. 

  • Defense took center stage

In a game between the country’s two biggest offensive powers, defense stole the show. Skubisz was on fire in a tense first half, making two saves in the first period – a quarter featuring three penalty corners from the Flames. Similarly, Liberty’s sophomore goalkeeper Azul Iritxity Irigoyen posed difficulties for the Cats in the first half, recording six saves in the second period alone. The Cats were able to evade Iritxity Irogoyen for most of the second half, when she made just one save. It took some creativity and time, but the Cats worked around the Flames’ powerful defense to make things happen.

  • Finally, Tracey Fuchs did it.

In her 13th season leading the Cats, Fuchs has brought the program back to its former glory– and then some. She led NU to its first Final Four since 1994, first ever national title appearance and first ever national title. While the team has certainly been successful during Fuchs’ tenure, this season was unlike any other. Fuchs has played a key role in the Cats’ success at the helm of the program, and with the team’s first ever national championship, she’s officially made her mark in Northwestern athletics history.

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Twitter: @charvarnes11