After extending its losing streak to three games with a loss to Penn State, No. 10 Northwestern field hockey (11-5, 3-1 B1G) was able to bounce back on Sunday with a decisive win against No. 19 Rutgers.
Northwestern’s past two weeks have been plagued with inconsistencies, including road losses to back-to-back unranked opponents in the Nittany Lions and Maine, which the team looks to resolve heading into the final month of regular season play.
The ‘Cats started their weekend with a devastating 3-2 double overtime loss to an unranked Penn State team. For the fourth straight game, Northwestern’s match was decided in overtime, the first time in program history the ‘Cats took part in four straight overtime games. After the loss, their season record in games that have gone to an extra session dropped to 2-4
The first half was scoreless and relatively uneventful. NU surrendered a goal early in the second but responded with two scores, one from Christen Conley (her first of the season) and one from Saar de Breij, giving the Wildcats a 2-1 lead in the fourth. However, following a NU yellow card, Penn State had the man advantage and tied it up midway through the fourth, sending the game to extra time.
After a scoreless first overtime, the Wildcats could not find the back of the net, and Penn State stole the win with the all-important golden goal three minutes into the second extra period.
However, Northwestern bounced back on Sunday, earning its seventh ranked win of the season with a 4-1 victory at Rutgers. The Wildcats took the early lead off a Bente Baekers penalty corner, assisted by Kirsten Mansfield, who leads the Big Ten with 12 assists on the season. Rutgers evened things up off another corner, but de Breij responded with her seventh of the season to regain the lead.
After a scoreless third quarter, Maren Seidel extended the lead to two on a rebound off another penalty corner. Baekers added her second of the day in the final two minutes off a penalty stroke — her NCAA-leading 19th goal of the season. The redshirt first year earned her fifth Big Ten Freshman of the Year this season for her efforts this weekend.
The win helped keep Tracey Fuchs and her squad solidly in the mix for one of the last at-large spots in the NCAA Tournament. Division 1 field hockey, which currently has 78 teams overall, allows 18 teams into the Tournament, including just eight at-large bids.
The Wildcats, who are currently 10th in the polls and 15th in RPI, are behind four teams who will likely earn conference auto-bids: one representative each from the powers of the ACC and the Big Ten, UConn from the Big East, and Princeton from the Ivy League. But a bid-stealer or continued struggles could easily push NU to the wrong side of the bubble. We will keep you updated on the team’s prognosis across the final three weeks of the season.
Northwestern will host Kent State on Sunday before resuming Big Ten play the following weekend, when they travel to take on No. 6 Iowa.