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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Field Hockey: No. 1 Northwestern secures outright Big Ten title with 5-1 rout of No. 7 Maryland

Yanyan Li/The Daily Northwestern
Graduate student midfielder Alia Marshall prepares to shoot. Marshall notched a goal and two assists in Northwestern’s 5-1 rout of Maryland Thursday.

What’s important now? 

That was Northwestern’s message ahead of its clash with No. 7 Maryland. It’s the same message — abbreviated to W.I.N. — that has guided the No. 1 Wildcats to the nation’s top ranking, the program’s longest-ever win streak and a perfect 8-0 finish in conference play.

Above all else, the motto has carried NU (16-1, 8-0 Big Ten) to its first outright regular season championship since 1994, officially stamped following a 5-1 rout of the Terrapins (14-4, 6-2 Big Ten) on Thursday.

“It’s just a testament to all of our hard work,” graduate student midfielder Alia Marshall said. “It’s all culminated to this moment … super well deserved for this group.”

The ‘Cats struck first less than nine minutes in — even while enduring the elements. As senior midfielder Lauren Wadas attempted to split a pair of Maryland defenders, the ball was poked free. It fell right in the path of graduate student midfielder Lindsey Frank, who took one dribble before firing a shot into the back of the cage — her first goal in an NU uniform.

Four minutes later, Marshall picked up the ball near midfield. As she charged at the Terrapin backline, her first intention was to look for her teammates. But they were all marked, leaving ample space for the Delaware native to push into, she said. 

When two defenders eventually attempted to impede her solo run, it was too late. Like a hot knife through butter, she sliced right through the spine of the Maryland defense to tally the second score of the game.

“Their defenders had kind of jumped on my teammates, which left the center open for me to do quick little pulls and then just a nice little finish over the goalie,” Marshall said.

At the start of the second frame, the ‘Cats tacked on a third score just 71 seconds in, as Marshall found graduate student midfielder Peyton Halsey in the circle for a tap-in finish. The goal was Halsey’s 11th on the season and the first of two assists for Marshall on the day.

Coach Tracey Fuchs said “everything went our way” offensively in the game’s opening minutes. 

“We were really, really good in the attacking circle,” Fuchs said. “We’ve been working on circle balance and getting touches on cross balls all year, and it certainly paid off today.”

Despite facing a three-goal deficit, the Terrapins didn’t retreat to their shells, quickly bagging a penalty corner score to trim NU’s advance to two.

Fuchs was complimentary of Maryland’s second quarter performance, which saw the ‘Cats sit a little deeper than they had in the previous frame. After not managing a single shot in the first quarter, the Terrapins registered nine in the second frame, while senior goalkeeper Annabel Skubisz made five saves.

At the intermission, Fuchs made a couple of tweaks to get NU pressuring Maryland’s backline once again.

“We just pinched in, and we really wanted them to play on the outside because we’re really good at swarming and putting pressure on the ball,” Fuchs said. “Once we got pressure on the ball, I thought we did a great job.”

The adjustments paid dividends, with the Terrapins managing just one more shot on goal in the final 30 minutes of action. The ‘Cats, meanwhile, saw their lead balloon to four, following scores from freshman back Ilse Tromp on a penalty corner and a blistering effort from junior midfielder Regan Cornelius.

When the clock hit zero, a gaggle of black jerseys swarmed Skubisz to celebrate the program’s first undefeated Big Ten finish since 1988. In NU’s postgame huddle, Fuchs was doused in orange Gatorade to cap off the on-field celebrations. 

Now, sights turn to the Big Ten Tournament in Ann Arbor, where the ‘Cats are the No. 1 seed and will receive a first-round bye — the spoils for being the conference’s regular season victor. 

“Season number two is over and we did what we had to do,” Fuchs said. “There’s another trophy up for grabs. That was our goal: to vie for (the Big Ten) regular season (title), for (the Big Ten) tournament (title) and then make a run in the NCAA (Tournament). So far, we’ve checked all the boxes, but season number three starts on Sunday.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @CervantesPAlex 

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