Field Hockey: No. 4 Northwestern defeats Rutgers in overtime at Big Ten Tournament


Daily file photo by Angeli Mittal

Junior midfielder Lauren Wadas hits the ball. Wadas tallied the opening goal against Rutgers on Thursday.

Charlotte Varnes, Sports Editor

Poised at the penalty spot, senior midfielder Peyton Halsey stared down the goal. 

With just over six minutes to go in overtime, Halsey’s one-on-one with the Rutgers’ goalkeeper was the perfect chance for Northwestern to punch its ticket to the Big Ten Tournament semifinal.

Bursting into action at the whistle, Halsey delivered a swift shot that escaped the Scarlet Knights’ (8-10, 3-5 Big Ten) keeper and kept the Wildcats’ (16-3, 5-3 Big Ten) conference championship hopes alive. As soon as the shot went in, Halsey’s teammates rushed off the sidelines to celebrate with her. 

“It was pretty crazy,” Halsey said. “It was exciting turning around and seeing all my teammates. It was really (a) team win.” 

NU dispatched Rutgers in a nail-biter, overtime 2-1 victory Thursday, earning its first trip to the Big Ten Tournament semifinals since the abbreviated 2020 season. The win also marked the Cats’ revenge after an upset loss to the Scarlet Knights in early October. 

Though NU dominated possession from the start, slipping past Rutgers’ defense with ease,  the Cats still struggled to convert corners and make the most of offensive opportunities for much of the first half. 

Halsey said each chance, even when unsuccessful, upped NU’s motivation and confidence. This momentum buoyed the Cats through the second half, and a penalty corner near the end of the second quarter proved especially opportune. Junior midfielder Lauren Wadas drove in a powerful shot with just over three minutes left in the half to get NU on the board.

Coach Tracey Fuchs credited the Cats’ offense for playing “simple hockey” and keeping the ball moving. NU has worked on this type of play for weeks, Fuchs said, and it paid dividends against the Scarlet Knights. 

But Rutgers came roaring back in the third quarter, gaining possession more often and racking up penalty corners. The Scarlet Knights’ lone goal came on its third corner of the quarter, as freshman back Puck Winter managed to score through traffic. 

Beyond Winter’s goal, however, the Cats’ defense held strong. Junior goalkeeper Annabel Skubisz recorded four saves alone in the third quarter, stymying Rutgers at every turn. Fuchs said Skubisz’s strong play is key to keeping NU in games, and she came up big at “critical times” in Thursday’s match.

The Scarlet Knights’ defense held strong in the second half, too. The Cats came up with seven shots in the fourth quarter alone but were unable to convert. Fuchs said Rutgers has a “feisty defense,” packing players on the ball.

Halsey said the number of players in the circle was challenging at times, and the Scarlet Knights “pounced” on the ball.

A tense second half paved the way to overtime, with Halsey’s golden goal sending Rutgers packing. It was a far cry from just a month ago, when the Scarlet Knights upset the Cats in Piscataway. 

Circumstances were different during the teams’ earlier matchup, with some NU players injured. But the loss readied the Cats ready for Thursday’s challenge.

“We had this pent-up energy since then,” Halsey said. “Having that chip on our shoulders going into the game was really motivating for us.” 

Now, NU turns its attention to Maryland in Friday’s Big Ten Tournament semifinal. The Terrapins last played the Cats in early October, winning the matchup 2-1 in overtime. 

Fuchs said Friday’s matchup will be competitive, calling Maryland a “fantastic team.” With a tight turnaround before then, Fuchs said it’s all about embracing their own mindset.

“We need to play our game and leave it all on the field,” Fuchs said. 

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @charvarnes11

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