Field Hockey: No. 4 Northwestern readies for Rutgers rematch in Big Ten Tournament


Daily file photo by Seeger Gray

Bente Baekers. The graduate forward received All Big Ten Honors and ranks third in the nation in goals per game.

Charlotte Varnes, Sports Editor

It was a long October for Northwestern field hockey.

After kicking off the month with consecutive losses to then-No. 4 Maryland and then-No. 23 Rutgers, the reigning national champion Wildcats (15-3, 5-3 Big Ten) won five straight games. This victorious stretch featured four ranked opponents — all in the Big Ten.

Now, preparing to face the Scarlet Knights (8-9, 3-5) in the Big Ten Tournament in Columbus, NU is well aware of the challenging road ahead.

“You could look at Rutgers’ record and be like, ‘Oh, they’re average,’” coach Tracey Fuchs said. “But any of these teams could win it. We have to be ready. We’re not going to take anybody lightly.”

It’s been nearly a month since the Cats took on Rutgers, failing to stage a comeback after allowing two goals in the first quarter. Senior midfielder Peyton Halsey’s lone goal couldn’t save NU, nor could junior goalkeeper Annabel Skubisz’s three saves.

But Fuchs said the Cats have only grown stronger since that loss. She also noted that NU was missing a handful of players during the programs’ last meeting. 

The Scarlet Knights’ strong penalty attack is one focus for the Cats, Fuchs said. Rutgers has a mix of offensive threats, though none of its players have recorded double-digit goals this season. Among the Scarlets Knights’ most dynamic offensive options are Indy van Ek, Iris Langejans, Marique Dieudonne and Lucy Bannatyne. 

Fuchs anticipates NU’s experience on the road will also help. The Cats finished their regular season campaign with Midwest away games, recording a weekend sweep over Indiana and Miami (OH). 

NU enters Thursday’s matchup with one of the country’s most prolific offenses. The Cats rank 12th in the country while averaging 2.89 goals per game, and graduate forward Bente Baekers ranks third in the country with 1.22 goals per game. 

Following the regular season, two NU players — junior midfielder Maddie Zimmer and Baekers — were named to the All Big Ten First Team. Graduate midfielder Kayla Blas was also named the Big Ten Defender of the Year, becoming the first Cats’ player to win the award in 27 years. 

Fuchs said she was especially proud of Blas. The New York native doesn’t get many stats, Fuchs said, but she’s the anchor of NU’s defense. 

Now, the Cats look to best their Big Ten Tournament performance from last season, when they fell to Michigan in a shootout in the first round. As long as NU plays consistently, Fuchs said she’s confident in its chances. 

“We need to be sharp and detailed,” Fuchs said. “(Players need to) go out, play (their) hearts out (and) don’t sit back. Let’s start on the front foot. If we do that, we have a chance to beat anybody in the country.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @charvarnes11

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