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Northwestern non-revenue sports update: Field hockey is life

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NUMBER 8 IN THE NATION! LET’S GO!

We’re back with another non-revenue sports update. In light of recent events and op-ed controversies, I’m just going to get right to it.

Field hockey

Here’s a list of things you should know about Northwestern field hockey.

  • The Wildcats are No. 8 in the country in RPI and No. 9 in the country in the Coaches’ Poll.
  • Northwestern has won eight of its last nine games, with its only loss coming on the road at then No. 3 Penn State. Most importantly, Northwestern beat Maryland 3-2 in College Park, which is very important for me because Maryland is basically the Grinch Who Stole Christmas in the Big Ten non-revenue sports department. Now, Northwestern is at No. 8 and Maryland is at No. 16. That’s what I like to see.
  • The NCAA Tournament is essentially a lock. Now we’re just waiting to see what this team can do in the postseason. Northwestern has ridden a long stretch of close game brilliance (4-1 in one-goal games since 9/8) into national prominence. Now we shall see if that can continue as the home stretch comes.
  • Puck Pentenga (again, I cannot stress enough that there is a field hockey player named Puck Pentenga) has 23 points in 14 games. That’s pretty good. Pentenga and Pascale Massey have been a two-person wrecking machine so far. Massey’s 7 goals leads the team, and the pair have taken 48.2 percent of Northwestern’s shots on goal.
  • Next home game is this Sunday against No. 24 UMass. Go watch! Try to watch the road game at No. 22 Iowa tomorrow at 3 p.m. as well.
  • Obviously, it must be stated that WE ARE A FIELD HOCKEY SCHOOL NOW!

Women’s soccer

Northwestern has a solid undefeated streak going after our last non-revenue update, but two road losses to Purdue and Illinois have dropped the Wildcats back to sixth in the Big Ten. Those late-September wins over Maryland and Indiana were crucial, but Northwestern is back to its recent habit of not scoring any goals, which is not great. Northwestern has just 14 goals scored, which is the second-lowest in the Big Ten. Last year, the defense and Lauren Clem were good enough to keep Northwestern in every game, but I guess you can’t expect to be that fortunate in two consecutive seasons. Thus, the team is almost mathematically eliminated from repeating as Big Ten Champions.

However, it’s soccer, and luck can change in an instant. Northwestern has three home games against Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Nebraska before a trip to Michigan State to end the season. If Northwestern could manage 9 points from those four games, they will still have a strong seed in the Big Ten Tournament and could make a late run at the NCAA Tournament.

Women’s cross-country

You will sit through my cross-country analysis, and you will like it. Northwestern cross-country finished fifth at the Cowboy Jamboree in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The team finished fifth in Stillwater behind a third-placed finish for Aubrey Roberts and an eighth-placed finish for Sarah Nicholson. Northwestern is not ranked in the Coaches’ Poll, but the team had a faster average time than No. 26 Oklahoma State. For those who read my scoring system rant from last time, of course Northwestern still lost to OKSU because XC scoring is bad.

This result is really impressive. For one, Northwestern is beating real Power 5 schools that aren’t Rutgers (yes, of course Rutger is bad at women’s cross-country compared to the B1G, what did you expect?) for the first time in ages. Northwestern cross-country hasn’t really done much as a team (sorry, but I’m sadly not wrong) in the last few years. Their Big Ten Championship performances since 2013 are 10th, 10th, 12th, and 9th. But since A'Havahla Haynes came on board, the program has been steadily rising.

I guess Northwestern now has a legitimate shot at getting some minor consideration for an at-large team bid for the NCAA Championships out of the Midwest Regional. This is more impressive than I’ve made it sound. For those who don’t follow NCAA cross-country whatsoever, there are 9 different regions for NCAA qualifications and only the top two teams in each region qualify. After that, only 13 teams get at-large bids for the NCAA Championships, meaning you likely have to be in the top four to even get a shot. Northwestern hasn’t finished in the top four of its region since 2012. The Wildcats have been buried in 9th, 9th, 9th and 8th over the past four seasons, and a return to the top five is overdue. They’re ranked fifth in this week’s regional XC summary and have a good shot at taking out Oklahoma State for fourth.

This is a crazy turnaround. Beating Oklahoma State by time in Stillwater is completely absurd. Northwestern was nearly three minutes slower by average time at NCAA Regionals last year, finishing 175 points behind the Cowboys. Now that gap is down to 9 points (yes, that’s a false equivalency, but bear with me, there are basically no NCAA Women’s XC stats).

Also Aubrey Roberts could definitely qualify as an individual for NCAA Championships for the second year running. After finishing second this weekend against a good portion of the NCAA Midwest Regional field, she has a good shot of taking one of the coveted individual at-large spots at NCAA Championship if she keeps up the pace. Also, she’s only a sophomore.

Inside NU: we have the Northwestern cross-country analysis on the Internet.

Volleyball

Things have been up-and-down since our last update for women’s volleyball. The bad news is Northwestern has lost 9 consecutive sets to ranked teams. That’s two 3-0 losses to Purdue and a 3-0 loss at Penn State. A loss to Illinois at ETHS doesn’t help either. However, Northwestern did pick up wins over Indiana and Rutgers (both winless on the year) to stay somewhat afloat in the conference and maintain a 12-6 record. Northwestern now enters the heart of Big Ten season at 2-4, but it has plenty of opportunities to come back.

Men’s soccer

Despite a very tough stretch in which men’s soccer lost 9 of 10 matches, the team is on a two-match win streak! A 3-2 win over Western Illinois and a 2-0 win over Depaul probably won’t salvage Northwestern’s record, but hey, progress!

Fencing

The fencing season just started with an individual competition at the Remenyik Open. There are too many results to recount here, but Maddy Curzon finished second in senior sabre and Ella Lombard finished tied for third in senior epee. Northwestern also swept the top four spots in the junior epee competition.