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Field hockey: Eight-game winning streak propels Northwestern to the top 5

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For the first time in four years, the Wildcats took down Michigan, and it helped propel them to new heights.

The Wildcats celebrate after beating Michigan for the first time in their last eight tries
Northwestern Field Hockey

A streak has been ended.

With a 1-0 shootout victory against ninth-ranked Michigan, Northwestern field hockey (10-2, 3-0 B1G) got its first win against its conference rival since 2014. The Wolverines had ended the last two seasons for the Wildcats, who extended their impressive win streak to eight games, and had beaten a Puck Pentenga-led NU five times in those two years alone.

Six of Northwestern’s ten wins have now come against ranked teams, with their only losses coming against the third (Connecticut) and second-best squads in the country. The latter, Duke, the ‘Cats took to double overtime.

NU started their weekend at home on Friday with a decisive 4-1 win over 24th-ranked Michigan State. The Wildcats dominated the Spartans 22-to-10 on shots and 10-to-5 on penalty corners. Kirsten Mansfield kicked things off with her second goal of the season, also charting her conference-leading tenth assist of the season on a corner later. First-year midfielder Ana Medina Garcia had herself a breakout game, scoring her first career goal and assisting on another.

Meanwhile, Bente Baekers extended her hot streak, scoring twice in the fourth quarter. Last week’s NFHCA Division I Offensive Player of the Week and this week’s Big Ten Freshman of the Week extended her nation-leading tally to a whopping 16 goals on the season. She has now won the latter award three weeks in a row, and only Northwestern players have earned it so far this season.

Florien Marcussen also charted an impressive season-high seven saves on the day and went on to earn Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week for her efforts both in that first game and the clash with the hated Wolverines.

Northwestern’s Sunday showdown with their top-ten opponent quickly became an intense defensive battle. The game was scoreless for six straight periods: four regulation and two overtime. Michigan almost found the back of the net early, but an impressive save from Florien Marcussen kept it scoreless.

“Any time we play Michigan, it’s a defensive battle,” said head coach Tracey Fuchs postgame. “They have one of the most talented midfielders in the country [Guadalupe Fernandez Lacort], so we knew we were going to have to step up defensively, and I’m very proud of our defensive unit.”

In shootouts, the two teams went back and forth. Michigan missed on their third attempt thanks to Marcussen forcing an infraction, giving Northwestern the advantage, but Kayla Blascouldn’t convert on the final of the five attempts. That forced a rare sixth, sudden-death round for both sides.

Northwestern converted, putting the pressure on Michigan’s Kathryn Peterson who appeared to score, but senior midfielder Saar de Breij requested video referral, which ultimately overturned the call when the replay showed the ball hitting Peterson’s foot. From there, the celebration commenced.

“Of course [playing Michigan] there’s this emotional aspect to it,” said de Breij of getting her win over the Wolverines in six tries. “We were finally able to let it all out.”

Northwestern will take on No. 4 Maryland for another Big Ten matchup on Thursday at home in a clash between what look like the two best teams in the conference. The Terps are undoubtedly the toughest remaining game for the Wildcats in regular season play, and the contest will be broadcasted live on BTN starting at 2:30. Don’t miss it!