No. 15 Northwestern field hockey (2-1) is off to a strong start in 2019, earning a pair of statement wins over No. 21 Stanford and California in their opening weekend.
While the football team couldn’t deliver last weekend in Palo Alto, Tracey Fuchs’ squad took care of business in a thrilling season opener. The Wildcats defeated No. 21 Stanford in a 4-3 win, thanks to a 3-2 edge in the game-ending shootout.
Northwestern dominated the stat sheet, leading the Cardinal 23-14 in shots, 9-4 in penalty corners and placing 18 of their 23 shots on goal. Despite the team’s offensive uncertainties heading into the season, the Wildcats certainly asserted their skill in terms of attack.
Coming off the Stanford win, the Wildcats faced the No. 4 UConn Huskies the next day and fell 4-1, losing much of their offensive momentum from the day before. UConn jumped out to an early 2-0 lead and never looked back, holding the Wildcats to only seven total shots and one score.
Despite the tough loss to a top-5 team, Northwestern was able to bounce back two days later in a 3-0 shutout win over California. The Wildcats reasserted their offensive dominance, outshooting the Golden Bears by an 18-4 mark.
The Wildcats’ unexpected offensive performance has led them to outscore their opponents 8-7 so far. Above all, penalty corners have been a deciding factor in their victories. Northwestern has outscored its opponents 18-to-11 on penalty corners, resulting in four of the team’s eight goals. The aggressive offensive play from up-and-coming young leaders has determined the wins thus far.
Redshirt first-year Bente Baekers leads the pack with three goals on the season, including two in the opener against Stanford. Baekers sat out her first season in Evanston due to injury, but her offensive success thus far has contributed to crucial wins and earned her Big Ten Freshman of the Week last week.
Sophomore Maren Seidel, one of the top returning goal scorers from last season, also charted two goals so far. The team’s remaining two goals of the season (the eighth was a team goal from the Stanford shootout) came from junior Lakin Barry and senior leader Saar de Breij, who scored the lone goal against UConn.
Behind the scenes, sophomore Kayla Blas and veteran Kirsten Mansfield have both played major roles as well, charting three assists a piece. Junior goalkeeper Florien Marcussen has filled the void of missing starter Annie Kalfas nicely with 15 saves and a .682 save percentage.
The Wildcats return to Evanston for their home-opening weekend against top-25 talent. They will face No. 3 Duke on Friday and No. 13 Boston College on Sunday. Duke started its season 2-0 with decisive wins against No. 9 Penn State and No. 25 William and Mary. As one of the toughest games of the season, the Blue Devils will certainly challenge the Wildcats at home.
Boston College had a slower start than expected, splitting its openers against unranked teams 1-1. The Eagles defeated Providence but fell to Fairfield and will face the No. 2 Maryland Terrapins before taking on the Wildcats.