Northwestern field hockey took a strong first step in the loaded Big Ten by outlasting Ohio State 3-2 in overtime. Two goals from Lily Katzman and a game-winner from Eva van Agt were enough for Northwestern to pick a vital win in its Big Ten opener.
The Wildcats, looking to make their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2014, controlled possession for much of the game, holding a distinct edge on both shots (22-15) and penalty corners (18-6). Northwestern’s huge edge in penalty corners was key throughout the game, as those are the main way teams can score. After Katzman struck early off of a penalty corner, the Buckeyes were able to convert on one of their own late in the first half, creating a 1-1 halftime scoreline.
Early in the second half the Buckeyes took advantage of a rare open-field opportunity, creating a 2-1 lead. Katzman, however, was up to the challenge, scoring just minutes later off of a beautiful feed from Paz Massey. Despite a flurry of late near-misses from the Wildcats, the game went to overtime, where field hockey rules change slightly. Instead of the traditional 11-on-11 format (including goalies), the teams are limited to 7 per side, and the golden goal rule is in effect. If two 15-minute overtime periods are repeated without a winner being decided, the teams go to a shootout. Thanks to van Agt (and Massey’s second assist), no shootout was required, as she took advantage of a defensive misplay to end the game nearly 8 minutes into the first overtime period.
Northwestern (5-3), who was ranked 14th in the National Coaches Poll before the win, is in the process of creating a strong NCAA Tournament resume. In field hockey, just 18 teams make the NCAA Tournament (including a few automatic bids), so the Wildcats have work to do in the Big Ten, which features 6 current top 25 teams, before they can secure a birth, but it appears that a coveted NCAA Tournament appearance is within reach.
Coming up, the Wildcats have a home matchup on Tuesday with the Louisville Cardinals before traveling to Happy Valley for a showdown with the 2nd-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions on Friday.