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The Daily Northwestern

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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. 2 Northwestern blanks Miami (Ohio) in 3-0 victory, advances to NCAA Tournament quarterfinals

Angeli Mittal/Daily Senior Staffer
Freshman back Ilse Tromp strikes the ball.

On the back of an 18-game win streak and a sweep of the Big Ten’s regular season and tournament titles, No. 2 Northwestern had all the makings of the NCAA Tournament’s top overall seed.

Instead, the selection committee handed the distinction to No. 1 North Carolina, and coach Tracey Fuchs’ team hosted a Miami (Ohio) team that tends to punch well above its unseeded weight on Friday.

“We still got to show the world that we are number one in the country — that we deserve that number one spot,” senior goalkeeper Annabel Skubisz said at a Thursday media availability.

With Skubisz and her teammates having something to prove at the start of a new postseason run, the Wildcats (19-1, 8-0 Big Ten) defeated the RedHawks (15-8, 6-1 MAC) 3-0 and will advance to Sunday’s quarterfinal.

Like its Sunday bout with then-No. 8 Maryland, Fuchs’ team took a while to get going offensively, while the defense appeared to fortify a brick wall between itself and Skubisz’s cage.

After a defensive feeling out period on both sides, NU drew its first penalty corner with less than a minute left in the first quarter. Graduate student midfielders Alia Marshall and Peyton Halsey connected on the initial feed, with the latter stick stopping the ball on a silver platter for senior midfielder Lauren Wadas.

Taking one dribble into the arc, Wadas fired a heat-seeking missile into the middle of the cage, handing the ’Cats a 1-0 lead.

“When the game is on the line, you want Lauren Wadas to have the ball,” Fuchs said. “For her to put that home took a lot of weight off of everybody’s shoulders, and we could just be loose and play.”

While NU held the attacking front foot for much of the second quarter, neither team struck paydirt, and the ’Cats carried a 1-0 advantage into halftime. NU’s collective defensive effort stood on its head, as Miami failed to merely circumvent the team’s first line of defense and didn’t record a shot through 30 minutes of play.

Called into action for the first time about five minutes into the third quarter, Skubisz swiftly denied the RedHawks’ primary penalty corner of the game. The Texas native dove to her right, denying a powerful potential equalizer.

“She made maybe the save of the season to continue to keep them out of the game,” Fuchs said. “She’s calm, cool, communicates well and she’s one heck of a goalkeeper — so glad she’s a Wildcat.”

With the ’Cats carrying a player-advantage late in the third quarter, Marshall sent in a corner toward junior midfielder Lauren Hunter, who laid the ball right on freshman back Ilse Tromp’s stick. The first-year phenom peppered the bottom left corner of the cage, extending NU’s advantage to 2-0.

Less than two minutes later, freshman forward Olivia Bent-Cole darted down the right sideline, weaving through traffic into the arc. Navigating past four Miami defenders and diving to the turf as she made contact with the ball, Bent-Cole buried the backbreaker to cap off another highlight reel moment in her highflying rookie campaign.

“Everyone seeing me lead out wide — that was a crucial part of the game — and our circle balance in general allowed me to go in the baseline and ultimately finish,” Bent-Cole said.

Although the RedHawks piled on attacking pressure in a last-ditch fourth quarter effort to salvage any semblance of hope, the ’Cats locked down in their shot stopping effort, securing the team’s and Skubisz’s 13th shutout victory of the season — a single-season program record for an NU goalkeeper.

The ’Cats will face a familiar opponent in Sunday’s quarterfinal round in Louisville — the only team to defeat NU this season. Though Fuchs expects the team’s last game at Lakeside Field to be a battle, Bent-Cole said the group has a clear mentality ahead of the matchup.

“(We’re) not letting it be our last game, knowing this should be our last home game, but not our last game of the season,” Bent-Cole said.

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Twitter: @jakeepste1n

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